April 29, 2004

Farrelly: The Genetic Difference Principle

Ah, some real bioethics courtesy of the The American Journal of Bioethics. University of Waterloo's Colin Farrelly has published his paper, The Genetic Difference Principle. He essentially argues that we need to rethink genetic enhancement in light of the fact that society is resource strapped. We need to prioritize, and enhancement biotechnologies, he argues , aren't at the top of the list. Consequently, working to achieve perfect social justice and the ideal society is untenable. Here's the abstract:
In the newly emerging debates about genetics and justice three distinct principles have begun to emerge concerning what the distributive aim of genetic interventions should be. These principles are: genetic equality, a genetic decent minimum, and the genetic difference principle. In this paper, I examine the rationale of each of these principles and argue that genetic equality and a genetic decent minimum are ill-equipped to tackle what I call the currency problem and the problem of weight. The genetic difference principle is the most promising of the three principles and I develop this principle so that it takes seriously the concerns of just health care and distributive justice in general. Given the strains on public funds for other important social programmes, the costs of pursuing genetic interventions and the nature of genetic interventions, I conclude that a more lax interpretation of the genetic difference principle is appropriate. This interpretation stipulates that genetic inequalities should be arranged so that they are to the greatest reasonable benefit of the least advantaged. Such a proposal is consistent with prioritarianism and provides some practical guidance for non-ideal societies–that is, societies that do not have the endless amount of resources needed to satisfy every requirement of justice.


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