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Essay on The Perils of Genetic Screening and Gene Therapy

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The Perils of Genetic Screening and Gene Therapy

When we contemplate manipulation of the human genome, we tend to frame the debate in terms of the potential consequences for our children, or our children's children. These are the individuals whose lives, and whose genes, are most likely to be effected by the rapidly advancing field of human genetics. Thus, while generations have always been conscious about the external environment bequeathed to their children, we of this generation may have to consider the additional question of what will we leave inside our children. As parents, do we have the responsibility or the right to screen against or select for certain genetically determined traits in our children? Here, I argue that
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Indeed, Martin Pernick suggests that our constructions of disability and disease have historically been shaped by our aesthetic standards of beauty and ugliness[1]. Popularizers associated with the American eugenics movement of the early twentieth century saw an attractive appearance as the best external indicator of health, intellect, and morality1. Such propaganda encouraged men and women to select soul mates (and breeding partners) solely on the basis of beauty, in order to improve the quality of society's genetic stock[1].

The American eugenics movement is a relatively extreme case in which subjective values dictated the popular understanding of health and healthy living. That the claims of this particular movement were irrational and unfounded does not necessarily condemn the more general desire of parents to influence their children based on the subjective value they ascribe to beauty, ability and intelligence. We generally do not criticize parents for making many decisions that shape the lives of their children-the type of education children receive, for example-so why shouldn't parents be empowered to make decisions about the best genes for their children as well? Matt Ridley sees nothing inherently wrong with giving parents the opportunity to
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