Short Review – Araszkiewicz, Human Genetic Engineering and the Problems of Distributive Justice (forthcoming)

Michał Araszkiewicz

Human Genetic Engineering and the Problems of Distributive Justice (forthcoming)

Theses

  • Outlines Human Genetic Engineering (HGE) in terms of the moral problems associated with it as well as relevant issues with distributive justice.
  • Sketches two opposing standpoints – trans-humanists and bio-conservatives – and posts their key positions
  • Assesses how the Rawlsian Principle of Fair Equality of Opportunity deals with the issues posed by these developments, as analysed by two Rawlsians, Resnik and Farrelly.
  • Resnik, according to Araszkiewicz, seems to favour some genetic engineering to redress naturally occurring imbalances. He sees the government largely controlling this but with some fundamental rights retained by individuals.
  • Farrelly offers a slightly more sophisticated distinction between three positions: GE – Genetic Equality Principle. Everyone should have the same genetic potential; GDM – Genetic Decent Minimum Principle. Everyone should have genetic potential which exceeds some minimum threshold; GDP – Genetic Difference Principle – Genetic endowments ought to be distributed to the greatest possible benefit of the worst-off. Farrelly favours the latter together with another mechanism, the “Reasonable Genetic Intervention Model” (RGIM), which safeguards reproductive rights.
  • Araszkiewicz feels that Farrelly unwittingly leaves the door open for a potentially slippery slope to a genetic caste based society whilst Resnik, whilst cautious, acts wisely in warning of the dangers of the potential emergence of a HE black market.

Commentary

  • A very thorough and clearly set out introductory essay which, nevertheless, goes further than most such works.
  • I personally feel that Araszkiewicz is perhaps a little harsh on Farrelly as it is precisely the worst off in society that his principle seeks to protect, rather than allowing wholesale access to such technology.
  • Resnik, on the other hand, makes no moral distinction between Genetic Therapy (redressing imbalances/deficiencies) and Genetic Enhancement (improving something which is already above an accepted minimum), in my opinion a clear oversight.
  • Araszkiewicz holds that Farrelly fails to account for the costs involved, believing that it is precisely the fact that such technology is expensive which will lead to it being the preserve of the rich. This is surely the point of such legislation – to ensure that this is not the case, as any good Rawlsian would agree!
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