In pursuit of our parenting ideals: A Kantian argument against genetic selection

Jemimah S. Thompson1

1The University of Queensland

Taking a “wrongful birth” case as impetus for considering the current state of the debate on genetic selection and as a means of highlighting the various ethical intuitions involved, I argue that the debate has overstepped in assuming that any act of genetic selection might be permissible in the first place. I first address opposing arguments made by Julian Savulescu and Rebecca Bennett and demonstrate that both fail to account for the moral nuances of parent/child relationships upon which the wrongful birth case is premised. I then argue that these shortcomings follow from the moral impermissibility of genetic selection itself, which I give a Kantian expression as contravention of the categorical imperative. Acts of genetic selection violate a basic respect for humanity which is presupposed by both Savulescu’s and Bennett’s ethics of selection.


Jemimah Thompson is an Honours student studying philosophy at the University of Queensland.