Choosing Children

Robert Scott Stewart reviews Choosing Children: Genes, Disability and Design by Jonathan Glover, in Metapsychology:

019929092x_01_mzzzzzzzIt has now been over twenty years since Jonathan Glover published What Sort of People Should There Be, which explored the then brand new field of genetic intervention. At that time, “no philosophers had written on genetic issues and it was widely believed that choosing genes for children was either impossible or at least not even on the horizon. So I had to make it all up myself” (114). In contrast, genetic intervention is now the subject of intense debate from a wide variety of fields, much of it empirically based.

One change to note in particular is the current inclusion in the debate of the narrative voices of people with certain conditions historically classified as disabilities. Ironically, however, these new voices have raised concerns about what used to be the least controversial area of genetic interventions in human reproduction; namely, interventions that would rid (potential) children of certain adverse genetic conditions. While there is still general (though not universal) agreement that we ought to eradicate certain genetic disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia, and hemophilia, there is a great deal of controversy regarding what to do regarding genetically based disabilities. Consider, as Glover does, the recent case of Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough, a lesbian couple, both of whom were deaf, who chose a sperm donor with hereditary deafness in order to produce a deaf child. According to them, their action was justified because deafness is not a disability or a disease, it’s merely a difference that is, moreover, worth keeping.

At the heart of this matter is how we are to define a disability.

More here.