The therapeutic triumph: Making poor claims and offering a revised conceptualization to justify embryo selection

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The present article describes and critically evaluates the medical/social distinction as used in the context of embryo selection through pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). According to such a distinction, while embryo selection for medical purposes, for example preventing the birth of a child with severe genetic disease, may be ethically justified, screening and the selection of embryos for social reasons, such as the implantation of an embryo of specific gender or one that carries the gene responsible for intelligence, should not be allowed. The article challenges the automatic and repeated use of such a distinction in ethical debates concerning PGD. It is argued that existing justifications for the medical/social distinction seem not to support the conclusion that such a distinction should determine whether embryos should be returned for implantation or misused by genetic parents in a conclusive way. The article further analyzes alternative proposals to the medical/social distinction in light of which embryo selection should be ethical, and concludes with the author's own proposal for ethical reasoning in the area of embryo selection. Under such a proposal, any embryo selection that would, on balance, increase the variety of potential life plans for the future child from which he or she will be able to choose is prima facie ethically justifiable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-440
Number of pages34
JournalEthical Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Embryos
  • Enhancement
  • Medical/social distinction
  • Pre-implantation diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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