Ethics - New genetics

From CambridgeNotes

Genetic testing: When is it permissible to disclose information to relatives without patients consent?

  • Severity of disorder; Conditions predictability
  • Actions relatives could take to protect themselves
  • Harm versus benefit of giving or withholding info
  • Reason given for refusing to share the information

Reproductive choice: Is pre-natal screening ethical?

  • Ethics of termination of pregnancy
  • Which conditions should be tested for (sex?)
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Public health and coercion (pre-marriage thalassaemia testing in Cyprus)
  • Prenatal testing for conditions that begin in adulthood

Gene therapy: Is enhancement ethical?

  • Unnatural – no different from plastic surgery?
  • Reduces diversity
  • Unfair advantage or "cheating"; leads to intolerance or "culture of perfection" – but in fact this is no different to environmental change and may be more cost effective; indeed may correct genetic injustice
  • Affects many future generations (germ-line treatment)


  • Therapeutic cloning for e.g. tissue transplantation: destruction of human life vs. benefit of research (remember that natural conception is very wasteful!)
  • Reproductive cloning for e.g. infertility: most arguments against assume genetic determinism i.e. the clone is the same person as the "original" – false! Note that the Cloning Act 2001 prevents reproductive cloning