ICBioethics Blog 

Is there a Moral Duty to use Genetic Testing?

Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)

A few weeks ago, a piece in the New York Times (found here) discussed the current ethical issues that arise as genetic testing increases for embryos. One of the issues brought up towards the end of the article is the claim by one bioethicist that says people which carry certain genes “have a moral duty to use preimplanation genetic diagnosis- if they can afford it- to spare the next generation.” There are two pieces of the statement that bothered me as I began to dig into this.

First the moral duty is contingent on finances.  Financial means should never dictate morality.  Moral duties should stand of their own accord. Second, the words “sparing the next generation” is troubling. What are we sparing the next generation from- death, certain diseases, a more difficult life?  In the same argument, who decides what qualifies- disease that guarantee death before 50, 40 or 30, adult onset diseases, conditions that cause death in infancy?

It is a slippery slope to spare the next generation, but without clarity of expectations. Who determines what the worth or quality of a disease. It certainly should not be individuals who do not have direct experience with the diseases or conditions. Disabilities groups have been champions of these questions for decades, but academics continue to use terms like moral duty and sparing the next generation.

Mitch GennusoComment