The Value of Genetic Relatedness in the Liberal State

Mr Markus Labude1

1SHAPES Initiative, Centre for Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Genetic relatedness is often presupposed as a value when thinking about whether to let prospective parents access gene editing technologies. The thought is that if some prospective parents can have genetically related children only if they avail themselves to such technologies, there is a prima facie reason to grant them this access. But how  should the Liberal State treat the alleged value of genetic relatedness? In the philosophical literature the value of genetic relatedness is hotly contested. Some dismiss it is a mere preference. Others accept that there is a strong and widespread desire for genetic relatedness, but that it is ultimately morally spurious and those that have this desires need to be educated about its lack of value. Only very few have made sustained attempts at justifying the value of genetic relatedness. I want to argue that very little of this philosophical debate matters, because the question for the Liberal State is not be about the putative value of genetic relatedness but about how the state should respond to the fact that many individuals value it. Indeed, in some cases the importance of genetic relatedness may be tied to an individual’s conception of the good. Since the Liberal State is to allow individuals to live their lives according to their chosen conception of the good, a commitment to Liberalism requires the State to be non-interfering. In this presentation, I will highlight the implications of this commitment to non-interference for reproductive gene editing.


Markus Labude is an early career scholar and Research Associate at the SHAPES Initiative, Center for Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore. His areas of interest include the ethics of gene modifying technologies, big data ethics, and research ethics.

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