On BioScience and Life and Such

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Errors in ethics of genetic sorting

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

Six day old human embryo implanting
Image by Hljod.Huskona via Flickr

The traditional ethical reasoning when it comes to embryo-sorting, is that sorting out embryos with a certain condition diminishes the value of those already born with this condition. Consequently, by this way of thinking, a selected embryo must have an increased value. The selection itself (the absence of a given condition) increases it’s value over any other embryo in the pool of embryo-candidates.

Using the following arguments one can see how this is a logical error.

All human life is valued equally, must have equal rights and must be paid equal respect. This is regardless of how it was made (sons of bitches are as valuable as sons of kings) – these concepts are straightforward, uncontroversial and commonly held by enlightened people.

It follows that the process of sorting is irrelevant to the value of the selected embryo. The human that is born has equal value to any other human, not more – not less.

How then, can this human born out of selection in any way influence the value of anyone else ?

Answer is: he cannot and he does not.

Sorting is not a process that creates or changes value. Not for humans, not for animals, not for any object. The value is assigned later and is usually set by arbitrary or fixed rules. Gold is worth more than silver due to scarcity, a race horse is worth more than a donkey due to the size of potential revenues. Nature does the sorting of humans (decides which individuals who will mate and when they mate, decides whether the fertilized egg will implant and so on..). We have striven to assign equal value to any and all life that is born, even if it is sorted by nature’s sometimes chaotic set of rules. We have reached the point where all civilized people agree upon equal value for all.

Us taking charge in the sorting process does not change that. Sorting is consequently not unethical in terms of human value. Sorting only becomes unethical if it becomes mandatory by rules set by others than the parent(s). The right to say no to sorting is vital. If the right to say no is respected, then embryo sorting is ethically uncomplicated.

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