February 29, 2024

The ethics of preimplantation diagnosis

A new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues that preimplantation genetic diagnosis can be morally obligatory in some cases. The author suggests we consider the embryos as hypothetical rational agents. He claims that such rational agents would chose PGD, and that we need to honour this hypothetical choice.

A new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues for a novel, preference based assessment of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Bioethicist Tomasz Żuradzki asserts that there are certain situations in which couples have a moral obligation to request PGD, “no matter what moral doctrine [they] subscribe to”.

Zuradzki imagines a situation in which embryos have already been prepared for implantation.

He departs from the traditional argument concerning the future benefits for the baby to be born; he argues rather from the perspective of the ‘hypothetical preferences’ of the embryos. Zuradzki claims that we must assume that the embryos are rational, and hence that they would chose to be screened for genetic predispositions.

Parents must honor these preferences of embryos, for “we should respect the hypothetical choices of rational agents.”

Zuradzki claims that anyone should do this, regardless of their ethical code:

“My argument demonstrates that even if somebody perceives the freezing and subsequent destruction of the surplus embryos remaining after an in vitro procedure to be the moral equivalent of killing adults, and thus sees potential parents who decide on PGD as just as immoral as the terrorists in the above example, she should still accept PGD as a method of embryo selection.”

Catholic teaching on the treatment of frozen embryos has been a topic of much bioethical debate recently –  Zuradzki’s argument draws attention to this. The Church has described embryos as being in an “ethical limbo” and suggests that any way in which we try to handle the embryos will be morally illicit.  

The ethics of preimplantation diagnosis
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
bioethics discourse
embryo screening
preimplantation genetic diagnosis