The post-humanist embryo: genetic manipulation, assisted reproductive technologies and the principle of procreative beneficence

Autor:Francisco Güell Pelayo
Cargo:ICS, Mind-brain: Biology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Philosophy and Neuroscience, Humanities Faculty, Department of Philosophy, Universidad de Navarra
Páginas:427-443
RESUMEN

Drawing from Julian Savulescu’s argument for the obligation to use technological interventions for the enhancement human life, the Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PPB) states that parents have a moral obligation to use available reproductive technologies, including techniques of genetic manipulation, to create children who have the best chance of enjoying the best possible life. The aim of... (ver resumen completo)

 
EXTRACTO GRATUITO
FRANCISCO GÜELL PELAYO THE POST-HUMANIST EMBRYO
CUADERNOS DE BIOÉTICA XXV 2014/3ª
427
THE POST-HUMANIST EMBRYO: GENETIC
MANIPULATION, ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE
TECHNOLOGIES AND THE PRINCIPLE OF
PROCREATIVE BENEFICENCE
EL EMBRIÓN POST-HUMANO: MANIPULACIÓN GENÉTICA,
REPRODUCCIÓN ASISTIDA Y EL PRINCIPIO DE BENEFICENCIA
PROCREATIVA
FRANCISCO GÜELL PELAYO
ICS, Mind-brain: Biology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Philosophy and Neuroscience.
Humanities Faculty, Department of Philosophy
Universidad de Navarra, Edificio Bibliotecas - Campus Universitario
Despacho 2951, 31009 PAMPLONA. fguell@unav.es
ABSTRACT:
Drawing from Julian Savulescu’s argument for the obligation to use technological interventions for the
enhancement human life, the Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PPB) states that parents have a moral
obligation to use available reproductive technologies, including techniques of genetic manipulation, to
create children who have the best chance of enjoying the best possible life. The aim of this study is to ana-
lyse the extent to which the possibility of using genetic manipulation to promote specific personality traits
and thereby enhance human life is actually supported by current scientific knowledge and to determine
whether the techniques employed in embryo selection comply with the PPB. In light of this analysis, the im-
portance of involving the scientific community in the enhancement debate will be made clear. Moreover,
when current knowledge of genetic and epigenetic processes and evidence of the risks of assisted repro-
ductive technologies are taken into account, we find sufficient reason—even when guided by the PPB—to
abstain from the use of current techniques of genetic manipulation and embryonic selection.
RESUMEN:
El principio de beneficencia procreativa (PPB), propuesto por Julian Savulescu, establece que los padres
tienen la obligación moral de utilizar las técnicas de manipulación genética y reproducción humana asistida
disponibles para crear niños que tengan la mejor oportunidad de disfrutar de la mejor vida posible . El objetivo
de este trabajo es analizar, por un lado, hasta qué punto la manipulación genética para la obtención de rasgos
concretos tienen en consideración el paradigma actual de la ciencia y, por otro lado, si las técnicas implicadas
en la selección embrionaria propuestas cumplen con el objetivo perseguido por el PPB. Además, esta exposición
pretende mostrar la importancia de implicar en la discusión sobre el enhancement a la comunidad científica.
Teniendo en cuenta el conocimiento científico sobre los procesos genéticos y epigenéticos del desarrollo y los
riesgos asociados a las técnicas de reproducción asistida, nos encontramos con razones suficientes para tomar la
decisión de no someter a los niños a las técnicas actuales de manipulación y selección embrionaria.
Keywords:
Transhumanist,
procreative
beneficence,
enhancement,
genetic manipulation,
assisted reproductive
technologies (ART).
Palabras clave:
Tranhumanismo,
beneficiencia
procreativa,
enhancement,
manipulación
genética, técnicas de
reproducción asistida.
Recibido: 15/03/2013
Aceptado: 25/06/2014
Cuadernos de Bioética XXV 2014/3ª
Copyright Cuadernos de Bioética
FRANCISCO GÜELL PELAYO THE POST-HUMANIST EMBRYO
CUADERNOS DE BIOÉTICA XXV 2014/3ª
428
1. Introduction
According to Nick Bostrom, a co-founder of the
movement, transhumanism is a philosophy that “pro-
motes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding
and evaluating the opportunities for enhancing the hu-
man condition and the human organism opened up by
the advancement of technology.”1 The principal aim of
transhumanism is to “focus on radically improving the
quality of life through biological manipulation.”2 To
achieve this goal, genetic manipulation and assisted hu-
man reproduction techniques are given a central role.3
The pre-implantation embryo is at the centre of the
debate: if the embryo can be biologically manipulated
to increase the possibility of living a better life, why not
do it? In this context, biological manipulation is seen
as a favourable, safe, reliable, and convenient form of
intervention.
Some authors have taken the argument for enhance-
ment further, going one step beyond those who support
the voluntary application of reproduction technologies.4
Such is the case of Julian Savulescu, the current occupant
of the Uheiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University
of Oxford. Savulescu argues that there is a positive ob-
ligation to make use of technological interventions to
enhance human life.5 “Not only can we enhance, we
should enhance,”6 is the position defended by Savules-
cu. Genetic manipulation, from this perspective, is not
just an opportunity; it’s an imperative.
As viewed by Savulescu, the aim of genetic modi-
fication is to create happier people: “We want to be
happy people, not just healthy people.”7 Back in 2003,
in the book “Beyond Therapy,” the American Council
1 Bostrom, N. [On line publication] «Transhumanist Values».
2012 <http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/values.html> [consulted:
5/05/2013].
2 Savulescu, J. «Genetic interventions and the ethics of
enhancement of human beings». In: The Oxford Handbook of
Bioethics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, 518.
3 Bostrom, N. «Human Genetic Enhancements: A Transhu-
manist Perspective». Journal of Value Inquiry 4 (37), (2003), 493-506;
Savulescu, J. «The moral obligation to create children with the best
chance of the best life». Bioethics 5 (23), (2009), 274-290.
4 Agar, N. Liberal eugenics: in defense of human enhance-
ment, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2004, p. 205.
5 Savulescu, J. (2007), op cit. 518.
6 Ibid, 517.
7 Ibid, 520.
of Bioethics anticipated the potential danger of this ap-
plication of biotechnology to the pursuit of happiness,
which emerges when the distinction between enhance-
ment and therapy is not taken seriously.8 Although this
distinction remains a subject of debate, it has been ef-
fectively blurred in the last decade by transhumanism,
and this ambiguity has benefited the theoretical devel-
opment of enhancement.9
In recent years, transhumanists have devoted consid-
erable effort to defining the meaning of a “better life”
and to specifying the physical and psychological traits
required for its achievement. Although these efforts
have not satisfied critics,10 the transhumanist project has
not lost any momentum. Indeed, if anything, its pro-
ponents are more convinced than ever, and take it for
granted that these basic questions have been answered.
At this basic level, some of the deepest criticisms
of transhumanism come from those who maintain that
there is an established natural law whose moral de-
mands are contrary to transhumanist aspirations. How-
ever, establishing a constructive dialogue on the basis
of such considerations is difficult at best, as proponents
of transhumanist enhancement tend to consider any
position that invokes a pre-defined essence of life or
a pre-established natural order as vain illusion. Indeed,
such criticisms have been dismissed as the ideology of
a “bio-conservative” group and are assumed to be un-
critically opposed to the use of technology for human
betterment.11 In this oppositional context, the moral ob-
8 President’s Council on Bioethics, Beyond therapy: biotechnol-
ogy and the pursuit of happiness, Dana Press, New York, 2003, 1-27.
9 “Transhumanists (advocates of human enhancement) are
unaffected by the problems associated with maintaining that there
are important differences between enhancement and therapy”.
Bostrom, N., Roache, R. «Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement».
In: New Waves in Applied Ethics, Pelgrave Macmillam, New York,
2008, 122.
10 Postigo, E. «Transumanesimo e postumano: principi teorici
e implicazioni bioetiche». Medicina e Morale 2, (2009), 267-282;
Ballesteros, J., Fernández, E. (ed.). Biotecnología y Posthumanismo,
Editorial Aranzadi, Navarra, 2007; Kass, L. Life, Liberty, and the Defense
of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, Encounter Books, San Francisco,
2002. Habermas, J. Die Zukunft der menschlichen Natur: Auf dem
Wege zu einer liberalen Eugenik?, Suhrkamp, Frankfurtam Main, 2001.
11 Bostrom, N. «In Defence of Posthuman Dignity». Bioethics
3 (19), (2005), 202-214; Bostrom et al., op cit.122; Feito, L. «Hacia
una mayor comprensión del papel de la naturaleza en los debates
bioéticos». Veritas 23, (2010), 111-129; Roache, R., Clarke S.
«Bioconservatism, bioliberalism, and the wisdom of reflecting on
repugnance». Monash Bioethics Review 28 (1) 4, (2009), 1-21.

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