Chosen Children? : An empirical study and a philosophical analysis of moral aspects of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and germ-line gene therapy
Abstract: With pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), genetic testing and selective transfer of embryos is possible. In the future, germ-line gene therapy (GLGT) applied to embryos before implantation, in order to introduce missing genes or replace mutant ones, may be possible. The objective of this dissertation is to analyse moral aspects of these technologies, as described by eighteen British, Italian and Swedish gynaecologists and geneticists. The objective is systematised into three parts: research interviews and qualitative analysis, philosophical analysis, and elaboration of a framework that supports the combination of analytic methods.PGD was described as positive since it enabled some couples at risk for a genetic disease to have a child without the disease. PGD was described as in different senses ‘better’ than methods for prenatal diagnosis and selective termination of pregnancy. It was also described as positive since it provided couples at risk with one more option, even if it did not result in the birth of a healthy child. However, interviewees were concerned about the difficulty of defining and evaluating genetic disease. They were also concerned about patients’ choices, and about exaggerated use or misuse. Whereas PGD gave rise to ambivalence in terms of how to understand, describe and evaluate it, GLGT was often described as unrealistic or undesirable.The results of the qualitative analysis are used in a philosophical analysis of the concepts of choice, autonomous choice, ambivalence, trust and ambivalence in trust relations. A set of distinct characteristics of each concept are elaborated. The results of the philosophical analysis are used in the discussion of the results of the qualitative analysis.The study shows that the technologies imply both ‘new’ ways to perform ‘old’ medical practices and ‘new’ practices. Old moral questions are reformulated. New moral questions are added. Against the background of this, the concept of genetic identity is discussed.Key words: empirical ethics, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, germ-line gene therapy, qualitative research, philosophical analysis, medical progress, genetic disease, choice, autonomous choice, ambivalence, trust, genetic identity.
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