IVF couples could choose embryos based on their likely social impact

Couples undergoing IVF could be told to choose embryos who would be good for society, according to an article in the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

The authors suggest that parents who can choose which children to bring to birth should not just consider the child’s wellbeing but also the child’s likely impact on society. The article raises the prospect of parents’ having a particular IVF embryo implanted because the child was genetically less disposed to behave anti-socially than other embryos in the laboratory.

The authors concede that genetic testing still only provides limited predictions of unborn children’s likely postnatal behaviour. The article describes how parents might select embryos based on the children’s predicted character-traits. At least once, the writers mistakenly suggest that IVF embryos somehow do not yet exist as people. They also seem to imply that there is such a thing as ethical eugenics.

Paul Danon of Core said: “The very fact that such an article can be written illustrates the ethical problems associated with bringing human life into existence in the laboratory. Also disturbing is its very coolness in discussing criteria by which some unborn children will be allowed to live or die. The piece even mentions how governments might require parents to practise so-called procreative altruism when using IVF.”

Core is on +44 20 7581 2623.

Procreative Altruism: Beyond Individualism in Reproductive Selection, Thomas Douglas, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, Katrien Devolder, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.

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