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The best possible child
  1. Michael Parker
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor M Parker
 The Ethox Centre, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Gibson Building/Block 21, Radcliffe Infirmary, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HE, UK; michael.parker{at}


Julian Savulescu argues for two principles of reproductive ethics: reproductive autonomy and procreative beneficence, where the principle of procreative beneficence is conceptualised in terms of a duty to have the child, of the possible children that could be had, who will have the best opportunity of the best life. Were it to be accepted, this principle would have significant implications for the ethics of reproductive choice and, in particular, for the use of prenatal testing and other reproductive technologies for the avoidance of disability, and for enhancement. In this paper, it is argued that this principle should be rejected, and it is concluded that while potential parents do have important obligations in relation to the foreseeable lives of their future children, these obligations are not best captured in terms of a duty to have the child with the best opportunity of the best life.

  • PGD, preimplantation genetic diagnosis

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  • i An exception is when the condition is so bad that it would be better not to have existed at all, but these situations will be rare.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • The development of the ideas in this paper has been helped tremendously by conversations with and comments by: Dan Brock, Julian Savulescu, Peggie Battin, Richard Ashcroft, Jonathan Glover, Bernard Baumerin, Tony Hope, Rosamund Scott, Barry Barnes and the members of the Egenis Centre at the University of Exeter, Devon, UK, the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Ireland at Galway, Ireland, Mariam Fraser and Tom Shakespeare. In particular, I would like to thank Tony Hope for pointing me in the direction of the Shakespeare quotation.

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