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Genes and equality
  1. C Farrelly
  1. Correspondence to:
 C Farrelly
 Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue, West Waterloo, Canada N2L 3G1;


The way people think about equality as a value will influence how they think genetic interventions should be regulated. In this paper the author uses the taxonomy of equality put forth by Derek Parfit and applies this to the issue of genetic interventions. It is argued that telic egalitarianism is untenable and that deontic egalitarianism collapses into prioritarianism. The priority view maintains that it is morally more important to benefit the people who are worse off. Once this precision has been given to the concerns egalitarians have, a number of diverse issues must be considered before determining what the just regulation of genetic interventions would be. Consideration must be given to the current situation of the least advantaged, the fiscal realities behind genetic interventions, the budget constraints on other social programmes egalitarians believe should receive scarce public funds, and the interconnected nature of genetic information. These considerations might lead egalitarians to abandon what they take to be the obvious policy recommendations for them to endorse regarding the regulation of gene therapies and enhancements.

  • budget constraints
  • equality
  • genetic intervention

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  • * To avoid complications concerning intergenerational justice let us stipulate that the interventions are somatic, and not germ line, therapies, and enhancements. Any reference to genetic intervention in this paper can be taken to mean somatic intervention. For a useful discussion of the different issues raised by somatic line and germ line modifications see chapter 8 of John Harris’s Clones, Genes and Immortality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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