Ethical reflection on the harm in reproductive decision‐making


BMJ Group


Advances in reproductive technologies continue to present ethical problems concerning their implementation and use. These advances have preoccupied bioethicists in their bid to gauge our moral responsibilities and obligations when making reproductive decisions. The aim of this discussion is to highlight the importance of a sensibility to differences in moral perspective as part of our ethical inquiry in these matters. Its focal point is the work of John Harris, who has consistently addressed the ethical issues raised by advancing reproductive technologies. The discussion is aimed at a central tenet of Harris's position on reproductive decision‐making—namely, that in some instances, giving birth to a worthwhile life may cause harm and will therefore be morally wrong. It attempts to spell out some of the implications of Harris's position that the author takes to involve a misplaced generality. To support this claim, some examples are explored that demonstrate the variety of ways in which concepts (such as harm) may manifest themselves as moral considerations within the context of reproductive decision‐making. The purpose is to demonstrate that Harris's general conception of the moral limits of reproductive autonomy obscures the issues raised by particular cases, which in themselves may reveal important directions for our ethical inquiry.

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