On Rights and the Right to be Genetically Engineered

On Earth As It Is

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On Rights and the Right to Be Genetically Engineered: A Transhumanist Perspective

Imagine a scenario in which a mother could be given medicine to ensure that her child would be born without debilitating congenital illnesses. In such a world, should access to this medicine be considered a human right?

Before you jump to any conclusions, consider the question reformulated in this way:

Imagine a scenario in which the technology existed to genetically engineer embryos to ensure that they would be born without debilitating congenital illnesses. In such a world, should being genetically engineered be considered a human right?

Intuitions may differ with regard to these two questions. I am interested in the distinction between them, and in potential answers to both of them.

How are the questions distinct? Of course, one striking difference is that medicine seems to be a more pleasant turn of phrase than being genetically engineered

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One thought on “On Rights and the Right to be Genetically Engineered

  1. In the first place, I think it’s a bad idea to try to establish things as specific as a right to genetic engineering as a human right. If a right to genetic engineering, why not a basic human right to cosmetic surgery or hip replacements? If the right to a home is a basic human right, does that require a right to running water or electric power?

    I totally agree that the way the questions is posed is likely to affect responses. However, any positive response to genetic engineering has to take into account that there are legitimate concerns about how it might be misused, for example to create individuals predetermined for particular tasks. That said, it’s much better to be genetically engineered not to have some serious negative condition, than to be aborted because you (may) have it.

    While people’s image and experience of motherhood means propositions put in terms of a mother’s rights will be well-received, the person most affected by any decisions about interventions, whether abortion, genetic intervention, in-womb micro-surgery or other medical acts, is the child due to be born and one cannot ask him/her for his/her opinion. The parents available to be asked certainly should be asked, but there probably should also be some way of representing the interests of the person to be, which may not be the same as the parents’. It’s difficult to imagine someone regretting that they were genetically engineered not to have a disease, but to have exceptional intelligence, or the ability to do with far less sleep, perhaps with side-effects that are unexpected or are considered unimportant?

    Difficult issues here.

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