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When choosing the traits of children is hurtful to others
  1. Timothy F Murphy
  1. Correspondence to Timothy F Murphy, Department of Medical Education m/c 591, 808 S Wood St, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612-7309, USA; tmurphy{at}


Some commentators object to the use of embryonic and fetal diagnostic technologies by parents who wish to avoid disabilities in their children. In particular, they say this use is hurtful in the meaning it expresses, namely that the lives of people with disabilities are not valuable or are less valuable than the lives of others. Other commentators have tried to show that this meaning does not necessarily belong to parents' choices and is not therefore credible as a general moral objection. However, this analysis overlooks the way in which the use of these technologies can be legitimately interpreted as hurtful. Once we admit to these hurtful effects felt by people with disabilities and those who hold them dear, it becomes important to ask whether that hurt can justify limits on parents' choices. Because the use of these technologies does not hurt people with disabilities directly and because there is no requirement that people having children work to ensure the continued existence of people with disabilities, no justification for limiting parents' choices is to be found in the hurt some people experience in steps taken to avoid disabilities in children.

  • Assisted reproductive technologies
  • children
  • disabilities
  • ethics
  • enhancement
  • in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer
  • eugenics
  • genetic screening/testing

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  • See Commentary, p 66

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  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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