In recent times, for a biology class I was given a list of topics for a presentation. Having studied Ethics and Bio-Ethics specifically I decided with my group to focus on the Ethics of Gene-Editing and Disabilities.

Gene Editing is quite a hot topic nowadays especially with the availability of easy to use and cheap technologies. These technologies not yet perfect pose both risks and rewards and are a matter of much debate. Many scientists do not want to take the responsibility of editing genes because they fear that mutations may occur and have occurred.

What really caught my attention while I was researching into this topic is that how easily and sometimes even unconsciously we ascribe lower moral value to someone with a disability.

Therefore, I decided to focus my presentation on the importance of our disability framework and the rights of the disabled people.

Being an independent scholar at UC Davis I was working with a group of students who were way younger then I was.

It took courage for them to understand my views and it made me proud when they turned my thoughts into a powerful presentation, putting aside their fears and biases.

While talking about the issue over with one of the guys in the group, who was very full of energy I explained to him why I was so passionate about the subject.

I grew up in a developing country all the way back in Pakistan. Growing up I saw poverty very up close even though I was fortunate enough to escape it many were not.

In developed countries a disabled person has many a resources available to them and a community that supports them and brings about the best in them. On the other hand growing up what I saw was that to be disabled was a curse. There were no resources for the disabled and the poor and the only livelihood available to a disabled person who was poor was to end up begging on the street.

The stark difference in the treatment of people that I have seen has always had a profound effect on me and the same was the case with this young gentleman that I talked to. He turned my thoughts into a powerful script that inspires me to write this.

Our presentation then focused on Liberty, Autonomy and Eugenics and The Fallacy of the Principle of Procreative Beneficence. This principal in logic is what drives us toward giving less moral value to disabled people.

What is Liberty:

The theory and practice of freedom. Liberty is a core value of almost all democracies worldwide, and there is a rich history of arguments for it going back to the Enlightenment .  (Oxford Reference)

What is Autonomy:

The principle that individuals have a right to make decisions about themselves and their lives, and so make their own choices. (Oxford Reference)

What is Eugenics:

According to Savulescu, “Eugenics is selective breeding to produce a better population” (272). Furthermore, if there is a public interest justification that interferes with reproduction so as to promote a social good, then this justification also amounts to eugenics.

Bennett, Rebecca. The Fallacy of the Principle of Procreation. Bioethics, Vol 23, Number 5 2009, pp2 65-273

Principle of Procreative Beneficence :

Individuals planning to conceive a child, should select their child from the possible children they could have, so that the child chosen is expected to have the best life, or at least a good life as others, taking into consideration the availability of relevant information as to what amounts to the best life.

Bennett, Rebecca. The Fallacy of the Principle of Procreation. Bioethics, Vol 23, Number 5 2009, pp2 65-273

Fallacy of PB:

  1. The argument to bring about the best children is only possible by placing lower moral value on those who have disabilities. This infringes on liberty and individual autonomy.
  2. In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, by a vote of 8 to 1, to uphold a state’s right to forcibly sterilize a person considered unfit to procreate. The case, known as Buck v. Bell.
  3. Even disabled children can and should have a ‘worthwhile’ life.
  4. Bennett argues that the purpose of PB is not the welfare of individual persons as established earlier but is a proposal as to what people believe is the best world possible and therefore it is similar to eugenics. Hence, it is a public interest justification for interfering with reproduction.
  5. Bennett’s argument arises out of the claim that if deafening a child and bringing to birth a deaf child are morally equivalent then it would give policymakers an argument to introduce testing for disorders or genetic disposition. Bennett argues that even if these tests were not mandatory they put pressure on parents to act in a certain way and hence infringement of autonomy.  
  6. Solution: Hence, there should be no pressure or public interest from their own community that interferes with their reproductive choice.

What is Morality:

Morality is the effort to guide one’s conduct by reasons that give equal weight to all others affected by one’s conduct. (UC Davis Philosophy).

What is Utilitarianism:

The morally right thing to do, on any occasion, is whatever would produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness for those affected.  Focus is on consequences. (UC Davis Philosophy).

What is Deontology:

Morality is a matter of acting in accordance with one’s duty, out of respect for that duty.  Rules or laws specify these duties. “The Right has priority over the Good. If an act is not in accord with the Right, it may not be undertaken, no matter the Good that it might produce.” (UC Davis Philosophy)

What is Virtue Ethics:

Morality is a matter of having, and of acting from, a virtuous character. (UC Davis Philosophy)

Rights to have a child:

“The basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to have a family if and how they so desire to” (World Health Organization (WHO) 2010, s. 34).

 

Written by Muhammad Mustafa Rashid

A Philosophy graduate from University of California, Davis; my interests encompass the fields of Philosophy, Economics and Business Administration. I have a keen appreciation of nature, the cosmos and their respective bounties, and I am always thoughtful regarding the growth and well-being of nations. I am also currently working towards a M.A. in Economics at the University of Detroit Mercy. On this website, you will find occasional posts, links to my social media profiles such as; LinkedIn, Academia.edu, Facebook, details regarding my Education, Work Experiences and other worthy thoughts.

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