A Theory of Unborn Life: From Abortion to Genetic Manipulation

ISBN : 9780199782475

Anja Karnein
208 Pages
164 x 242 mm
Pub date
Jun 2012
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In light of new biomedical technologies, such as artificial reproduction, stem cell research, genetic selection and design, the question of what we owe to future persons-and unborn life more generally-is as contested as ever. In A Theory of Unborn Life: From Abortion to Genetic Manipulation, author Anja J. Karnein provides a novel theory that shows how our commitments to persons can help us make sense of our obligations to unborn life. We should treat embryos that will develop into persons in anticipation of these persons. But how viable is this theory? Moreover, what does it mean to treat embryos in anticipation of the future persons they will develop into? Exploring the attractiveness of this approach for Germany and the U.S. - two countries with very different legal approaches to valuing unborn life-Karnein comes to startling conclusions to some of today's greatest ethical and legal debates. Under Karnein's theory, abortion and stem cell research are legitimate, since embryos that do not have mothers willing to continue to assist their growth have no way of developing into persons. However, Karnein also contends that where the health of embryos is threatened by third parties or even by the women carrying them, embryos need to be treated with the same care due to the children that emerge from them. In the case of genetic manipulation, it is important to respect future persons like our contemporaries, respecting their independence as individuals as well as the way they enter this world without modification. Genetic interventions are therefore only legitimate for insuring that future persons have the necessary physical and mental endowment to lead independent lives so as to be protected from being dominated by their contemporaries. Evincing polarization and dogma, Karnein's clean, philosophically-driven analysis provides a sound ethical foundation for the interpretation of any variety of legal dilemmas surrounding unborn life.


Table of Contents
Part I: Creation and Destruction
Chapter One - Embryos and Future Persons
1. Protecting Persons
2. Why Birth Matters
3. The Moral Value of Embryos that will be Born
4. The Moral Value of Embryos that will not be Born
5. Conclusion
Chapter Two - The Human Dignity of Embryos? The German Case
1. The German Abortion Debate
2. Embryo Protection in Tort and Criminal Law
3. The Law for Protecting (Some) Embryos
4. The Stem Cell Law
5. Conclusion
Chapter Three - The Moral Anonymity of Embryos: The American Case
1. The U.S. Abortion Debate
2. Tort Law: Prenatal Injury Cases
3. Criminal Law and the Fetus
4. Artificial Reproductive Technologies and Stem Cell Research
5. Conclusion
Part II: Selection and Manipulation
Chapter Four - The Limits of Reproductive Choice and Distributive Justice
1. Championing Procreative Liberties: John A. Robertson
2. Embracing Scientific Advance: Ronald Dworkin
3. Insuring Equal Opportunity: Buchanan et al.
3.1. Genetic Manipulation, Justice, and Our Moral System
3.2. Limiting Parental Powers: Respecting a Child's Right to an Open Future
3.3. The Danger of Intergenerational Domination
4. Conclusion
Chapter Five - Troubling Intuitions: Jurgen Habermas and the Dangers of Changing Human Nature
1. Habermas's Rejection of Liberal Eugenics
2. Irreversibility, Responsibility, and Appropriate Attitudes
3. The Anthropological Foundation of Morality
4. Conclusion
Chapter Six - Future Persons and their Independence
1. Precarious Intergenerational Relationships
1.1. The Non-Identity Problem
1.2. Determining the Nature of Intergenerational Relationships
2. The Importance of Independence
2.1. Natural and Substantial Independence
2.2. Independence and Disability
2.3. Independence v. the Significance of Dependence
2.4. Independence v. Autonomy
2.5. Independence as a Non-Contingent Notion
2.6. Independence and the Future of Morality
3. Who is Responsible? Exculpating Parents
4. Conclusion

About the author: 

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Goethe University-Frankfurt am Main; recently she has been a Visiting Fellow for the Center for Ethics, Harvard University, a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Society and Genetics at UCLA, and a Visiting Scholar at the Bioethics Center at NYU

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