Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Liberty and Solidarity

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Liberty and Solidarity

Article excerpt

Arecent exchange of essays on Bioethics Forum, the Report's free online service, touches on a question at the heart of the special set of essays in this issue: when would it be appropriate to restrict individual liberty to control aspects of procreation? The Forum essays--by Alice Dreger and jointly by Aaron Greenberg and Michael Bailey--address the prospect of using preimplantation genetic diagnosis to make sure that one's child is heterosexual. Dreger objects to this use of PGD, mainly on the grounds that if ever fewer people are homosexual, and if a test is in widespread use to select against homosexuality, then those who are homosexual anyway will suffer even worse discrimination than they already do. But ultimately--and reluctantly--she agrees with Greenberg and Bailey that a government ban would be inappropriate. She settles for public opprobrium.

What would it take to justify a restriction on an important liberty? This question is one of several at play in the essays in this issue on regulating reprogenetic technologies--technologies, that is, that bring together the fields of assisted reproduction and genetics to help parents make decisions not only about whether and when to have children, but also about what kind of children to have. In the lead essay of the set, Franco Furger and Francis Fukuyama argue for a strategy that has no precedent in the United States but is modeled on the approach used in the United Kingdom (and is similar to a proposal advanced by Hastings scholars Erik Parens and Lori Knowles in a special report in this journal in 2003). They call for a new federal entity that would be buffered from politics and provide "flexible and dynamic" regulation explicitly grounded in ethical principles and guided by "a robust procedure of public consultation." The four commentaries accompanying their essay offer contrasting views of various aspects of the proposal--three about the proposed regulatory process, and one about a substantive issue that Furger and Fukuyama believe merits liberty-restricting regulation. …

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