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Genetic modifications for personal enhancement: a defence
  1. Timothy F Murphy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Timothy F Murphy, Medical Education mc 591, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, IL 606127309, USA; tmurphy{at}


Bioconservative commentators argue that parents should not take steps to modify the genetics of their children even in the name of enhancement because of the damage they predict for values, identities and relationships. Some commentators have even said that adults should not modify themselves through genetic interventions. One commentator worries that genetic modifications chosen by adults for themselves will undermine moral agency, lead to less valuable experiences and fracture people's sense of self. These worries are not justified, however, since the effects of modification will not undo moral agency as such. Adults can still have valuable experiences, even if some prior choices no longer seem meaningful. Changes at the genetic level will not always, either, alienate people from their own sense of self. On the contrary, genetic modifications can help amplify choice, enrich lives and consolidate identities. Ultimately, there is no moral requirement that people value their contingent genetic endowment to the exclusion of changes important to them in their future genetic identities. Through weighing risks and benefits, adults also have the power to consent to—and assume the risks of—genetic modifications for themselves in a way not possible in prenatal genetic interventions.

  • Enhancement
  • Genethics
  • Children

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