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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 21, 2007

Virtue Ethics and Prenatal Genetic Enhancement

Colin Farrelly

In this paper I argue that the virtue ethics tradition can enhance the moral discourse on the ethics of prenatal genetic enhancements in distinctive and valuable ways. Virtue ethics prescribes we adopt a much more provisional stance on the issue of the moral permissibility of prenatal genetic enhancements. A stance that places great care on differentiating between the different stakes involved with developing different phenotypes in our children and the different possible means (environmental vs. genetic manipulation) available to parents for pursuing legitimate concerns of parental love and virtue. Key components of the virtue ethics account of morality, such as the Aristotelian account of happiness, love and the doctrine of the mean, provide an adequate basis for rejecting the claim that it is morally impermissible for parents to pursue (safe and effective) prenatal enhancements. Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that a virtue ethics account of morality could actually support the stronger claim that utilising such interventions can (in certain contexts) be morally required.

Published Online: 2007-12-21

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