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    Oxford professor says genetic screening for 'ethically better' children is a moral obligation

    Oxford professor says genetic screening for 'ethically better' children is a moral obligation


    Professor Julian Savulescu of Oxford argues that screening out negative and violent personality traits will one day be a moral imperative for parents.

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    Oxford medical ethicist Julian Savulescu has called screening out negative traits in embryos not just desirable but a "moral obligation" for parents. In an upcoming issue of Reader's Digest, Professor Savulescu will present his case that "trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting," and that when it comes to screening out "personality flaws" like alcoholism, psychopathy, and a propensity for violence, "you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children. They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others."

    "If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should," Savulescu says in The Telegraph. Though he may do so in his upcoming piece, Savulescu does not here address the opposite question: whether parents who are not able to intervene should ethically refrain from having children who, by his logic, may be less fit. He does make it clear that he would reject organized eugenics programs or anything that would force such screenings.

    While Savulescu's statements are inflammatory, they're hardly new. The professor has been a longtime advocate of genetic engineering for the betterment of the human race, something he has suggested at (among other places) Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas, where his talk was entitled "Unfit for Life: Genetically enhance humanity or face extinction." The field of medical ethics also allows for more abstract discussions than usually take place in hospitals or clinics. And even if his latest proposal is taken under consideration by others, we're still far away from being able to screen for the traits he describes. But for Savulescu, whose transhumanist bent has also led him to endorse performance enhancing drugs in sports, "artificial moral enhancement" must play a vital role in scientific development.