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Do we need an alternative ‘relational approach’ to saviour siblings?
  1. Stephen Wilkinson
  1. Correspondence to Professor Stephen Wilkinson, Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YL, UK; s.wilkinson2{at}lancaster.ac.uk

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Michelle Taylor-Sands rejects the argument ‘commonly used to justify selective reproduction, that it is better to be born than not’.1 The supposed inadequacy of this position is one of the things that pushes her towards an alternative ‘relational’ approach. Here, I consider briefly her three main objections:

  1. The Non-Identity Problem does not apply to all the risks associated with the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) process.

  2. The ‘life not worth living’ standard applied in wrongful life cases is not suitable for selective reproduction.

  3. The reasoning described above has ‘morally objectionable’ implications.

Risks from the PGD process

One of Taylor-Sands’ most interesting suggestions is that there might be a difference between selecting a (future) child because it is congenitally deaf and some other forms of selective reproduction. Taylor-Sands accepts that An embryo selected because it is deaf could only ever become a deaf child. There are no other options for that child apart from becoming a deaf child, apart from non-existence (p. 18).1

But what goes for the deafness case does not, she claims, apply to the whole of selective reproduction … additional risks of harm associated with the PGD process (which involves ART and embryo biopsy) … could be avoided if the child is born naturally. The non-identity problem is not relevant to these risks of harm because there is another option for the child—to be born as a result of natural conception (p. 18).1

It is difficult, however, to see much difference between the deafness case and the saviour sibling case in this respect. …

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