Read the article “Genetics and Reproductive Risk: Can Having Children be Immoral?” by Laura M. Purdy, pp. 564–570. In
this article Purdy argues for the following thesis:
(T) It is morally wrong to reproduce when we know there is a high risk of transmitting a serious disease or
She argues for this using the example of Huntington’s disease (HD), and in particular the following situation:
(S) A couple wants to have biological children, i.e., children produced from their DNA or their egg and sperm cells. They also know that one of them has the gene for HD, and therefore is at a risk of passing HD onto their biological children.
Specifically, Purdy supports the following application of (T) to (S):
(A) It is morally wrong for the couple in situation S to reproduce without trying to avoid passing HD onto their
Answer the following questions, in enough detail to be understood by someone with no background in medical ethics.
- State why Purdy believes both (i) there are cases where we know there is a high risk of transmitting HD, and (ii) that HD is a serious disease or defect.
- Purdy says that Utilitarianism supports (T), but she does not give the argument in this article. Give the best Utilitarianism argument you can for (A). Use Mill’s version of Utilitarianism (the classic, hedonistic, act version): The right action is whatever produces the maximum total amount of happiness for everyone effected (i.e., produces greater total happiness than any other action would produce).
- Consider the principle of autonomy (a.k.a. the principle of respect for persons), which we have discussed in various versions and interpretations. This principle might be used to argue for (A) OR against (A), depending on which version or interpretation you use, and some of those arguments might be stronger than others. Give what you think is the strongest of these arguments. It can be either for (A) or against (A), but not both, and it should be whichever one you think is the strongest.
(Note: You may interpret the principle of autonomy in any of the ways we have read in the book or discussed in class. Be clear and explicit about which way you are interpreting it, and in particular, be clear and explicit about what (if anything) the principle requires of us regarding possible future individuals.)
- State whether you believe (A) is true or false, and explain why you believe this. Provide at least one reason that goes beyond the arguments discussed in parts 2 and 3.
- When identifying the author’s positions, be charitable: if there are multiple ways to interpret something, focus on the
interpretation which makes their position strongest, or most plausible. Give them the benefit of the doubt, where you reasonably can. In other words, don’t ascribe any unreasonable claims or assumptions to them, unless the text provides pretty clear evidence that they accept them. (On the other hand, do not be overly charitable: do not substantially change their meaning, just to make their case stronger.)
- In this case, it’s easy to follow: Do not consult any other sources beyond the textbook or class. This is not a research paper, so you do not need to find or use sources. Any reliance on sources beyond the textbook will constitute plagiarism.
- Use the rubric as a guide. Check your own work against it. Make sure it will be obvious to your reader, and not just to you, that your essay meets the criteria.
- Your essay should be about 2 pages, double spaced, with 12-point font and 1-inch margins.
- It’s best to break your essay into four paragraphs, one for each part of the instructions above.
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