April 24, 2024

I’m not the Nazi; you’re the Nazi

Julian Savulescu has the perfect riposte

Julian Savulescu, the utilitarian bioethicist at Oxford University, has the perfect riposte when his opponents tell him that his proposals for genetic selection remind them of Nazi eugenics.

The real Nazis, he contends, are people who want to restrict the freedom to perform genetic tests on embryos.

Professor Savulescu is currently in his native Australia and appeared on the current affairs debating program Insight yesterday evening (transcript here). In response to a question, he declared that a ban on genetic testing is “profoundly immoral because people’s liberty to do things should only be restricted when they’re harming other people.“

He argues that parents should be allowed to create the best children possible with genetic testing. He expanded on this in an article in The Australian:

“We should use the emerging knowledge from genetics to have not just healthier children, but children with better genes. We should give chance a helping hand.”

This includes the right to sex selection and destruction of embryos with genetic defects as well as selecting embryos with genes for intelligence, athletic ability or altruism and empathy. Australian legislation, however, only allows parents and IVF clinics to select for genetic defects.

“The targets of the Nazi and other eugenic programs, widely employed at the time in the United States and Europe, were people with intellectual disability, the poor and criminals. The Nazis would have fully approved of the current system of eugenics, which focuses on diseases, including genetic disorders which cause intellectual disability like Down Syndrome and Fragile X syndrome.”

In his TV debate, he insisted that parents have an obligation to try to have healthier children.  “Life will always be difficult. Why make it more difficult?” 

Michael Cook
Creative commons
genetic testing
julian savulescu
Nazi doctors