Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ethical Issues Concerning Genetic Screening for Complex Behavioral Traits

In addition to Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics (Parens, 2006), the following books are next on the list to read and work through fro my UROP project with Jim. After we rough up an idea for a thesis today, I need to spend some time in the library researching the most current journal articles n the subject. Are we pointing in the direction of causation and behavior or will we more or less accept the tenants of genetic links to behavior and argue for drawing a line somewhere between treatment and enhancement? Will we focus on ASPD that probably has the most social relevance and potential for arguments in the realm of policy or more in the medical arena for traits such as depression that may have more medical implications?

Enhancing Evolution – Harris argues that we are morally obligated to enhance but how does factor into intervention on the behalf of others, i.e., children. He appeals to political and moral philosophers such as Bentham, Rousseau, Locke, and Russell. He seems to argue against the model for health and disease proposed by Boorse and Daniels. He speaks to arguments of sufficient seriousness, sufficient probability, and proximity to justify human freedom.

Choosing Children – Glover argues that in order to make the claim that enhancement will minimize or eliminate disability, we must first understand and define disability. Also, how are we to ethically argue for the elimination of certain disabilities such as deafness? This is especially relevant when many in the deaf community do not view deafness as a disability. I think the disability component will be good to explore since the question of normality and possible dichotomous relationship between disability and enhancement. It also appears that he tries to distinguish between the rights of parents and the right of children in addition to arguing that there should be constraints on parental choice. He seems to tackle the idea of a modern eugenics with an emphasis on what enhancement means to notions of justice and genetic competitiveness. Based on the introduction and skimming, he seems to argue for intervention and the redrawing of the line to push the envelope of “normal” while arguing against enhancement that leads to societal inequities.

From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice – Buchanan et al. offer a systematic analysis of issues surrounding genetic technology, ethics, and social policy. Published in 2000, it may start to date itself except for the arguments on more timeless philosophical issues of justice and human nature. While the history of eugenics leading up to Nazi Germany is important, it seems that there was a case to be made for the existence of a form of modern eugenics before completion of the human genome project so if we move in a positive direction, maybe we should not shy away from the past but embrace a redefinition that incorporates ethics, social theory, and learning from the past. Just an idea … not quite sure if it’s a good one. It seems that the Buchanan essays are more relevant to our research but we should selectively read arguments by the other authors including those concerning:
1. Distributive justice
2. Human nature and bases of inequality
3. Normality
4. Tailoring environments
5. Moral boundaries
6. Treatment versus enhancement
7. Egalitarianism
8. Normal function model
9. The idea of “best”
10. The right to an open future
11. Reproductive freedom

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