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The unwitting sacrifice problem
  1. G Gillett
  1. Correspondence to:
 G Gillett
 Professor G Gillett, Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin New Zealand;


The diagnosis of bipolar disorder has been linked to giftedness of various sorts and this raises a special problem in that it is likely that the condition has a genetic basis. Therefore it seems possible that in the near future we will be able to detect and eliminate the gene predisposing to the disorder. This may mean, however, that, as a society, we lose the associated gifts. We might then face a difficult decision either way in that it is unclear that we are preventing an unalloyed bad when we diagnose and eliminate bipolar disorder through prenatal genetic testing and yet if we allow the individual to be born we are condemning that person to being an unwitting sacrifice in that they might well suffer considerable net distress as a result of our need to keep our gene pool enriched in the relevant way.

  • BP, bipolar disorder
  • GIU, general impersonal utility
  • bipolar disorder
  • genetics
  • prenatal genetic diagnosis
  • selective termination

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