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Do we need an alternative ‘relational approach’ to saviour siblings?

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Michelle Taylor-Sands rejects the argument ‘commonly used to justify selective reproduction, that it is better to be born than not’.1 The supposed inadequacy of this position is one of the things that pushes her towards an alternative ‘relational’ approach. Here, I consider briefly her three main objections:

  1. The Non-Identity Problem does not apply to all the risks associated with the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) process.

  2. The ‘life not worth living’ standard applied in wrongful life cases is not suitable for selective reproduction.

  3. The reasoning described above has ‘morally objectionable’ implications.

Risks from the PGD process

One of Taylor-Sands’ most interesting suggestions is that there might be a difference between selecting a (future) child because it is congenitally deaf and some other forms of selective reproduction. Taylor-Sands accepts thatAn embryo selected because it is deaf could only ever become a deaf child. There are no other options for that child apart from becoming a deaf child, apart from non-existence (p. 18).1

But what goes for the deafness case does not, she claims, apply to the whole of selective reproduction… additional risks of harm associated with the PGD process (which involves ART and embryo biopsy) … could be avoided if the child is born naturally. The non-identity problem is not relevant to these risks of harm because there is another option for the child—to be born as a result of natural conception (p. 18).1

It is difficult, however, to see much difference between the deafness case and the saviour sibling case in this respect. In the choosing deafness case, the parents have a choice between several embryos, one of …

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Footnotes

  • Twitter Follow Stephen Wilkinson at @Wilkinson2S

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. The provenance and peer review statement has been corrected.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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