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More from our bioethics friends--choice devours itself [CORRECTED]

Ho, hum. Another day, another outrage from the bioethics community. This one (or pair of 'em) gets a choice devours itself award. Remember that choice devours itself when you start by offering something as a benefit to a particular group and advertise it as good for them as a matter of their choice and end up forcing it on the "beneficiaries" or turning a blind eye when that is done. Forced or high-pressure abortions, complicity in sex slavery, forced or coerced euthanasia and "assisted suicide," and the like.

In this case, the wonderful "choice" is in-vitro fertilization cum pre-implantation diagnosis. (In case you need a refresher, that's when you toss embryos into the bioincinerator after checking them for, and finding, defects.) All about giving parents choices, you know. But some brainy bioethicists have decided that, actually, you have a duty to use pre-implantation diagnosis if you are a carrier of a serious (whatever "serious" may include) genetic anomaly. In fact, the law should impose this duty on you:

Janet Malek, of East Carolina University, and Judith F. Daar, of Whittier Law School, in California, argue that eventually the law should and will impose “a duty on IVF-reproducing parents to maximize the well-being of their future offspring by all reasonable means.” Why? The authors cite three reasons: increasing the child’s well-being, expanding his or her self-determination, and reducing inequalities.

So it's all about your choice, except when it's not.

But there's more. In the same hot-off-the-press issue of The American Journal of Bioethics Rosalind Ladd and Edwin Forman criticize Malek and Daar on the grounds that they "do not go far enough." Ladd and Forman argue that the duty to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (and to discard embryos with the problem) extends to all parents who carry a serious genetic anomaly. But, ha!, since you can't use pre-implantation diagnosis unless you use IVF, all such parents have a duty to use IVF to procreate. Isn't that neat?

It looks from the first page of their article (which is all I presently have access to) as though Ladd and Forman intend to duck the issue of whether the law should (as Malek and Daar hold) impose such duties on parents. They say that they don't "need to revive" the "controversy" over enforcement. Well, that's convenient. They can just let that sort itself out in the halls of government, having already given the wink and the nod by saying that the first set of totalitarian-inclined bioethicists "didn't go far enough" in telling us about our procreative duties.

I've saved the worst for last, though. At least from the perspective of Christian readers, especially evangelical Christian readers. Guess where Rosalind Ladd teaches? Just guess.

Wheaton College. You know, that flagship evangelical Christian school, the home of the papers of C.S. Lewis and many other famous Christian authors. The school so committed to its principles of faith that in 2005 it even fired a professor for becoming Catholic.

That one.

Update and important correction:
My error, corrected by reader Anna. Rosalind Ladd is emerita at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. The other Wheaton. W4 regrets the error and is happy to correct it.

Comments (17)

It's the other Wheaton. The one in MA. Sorry to spoil the story!

I wonder if they realize that arguing for a duty to "maximize the well being of the child" might be taken up and used by social conservatives. After all, a child's well-being is maximized by the traditional, heterosexual nuclear family. And if there is a duty to maximize the child's well-being then there is a duty to place children with two-parent heterosexual couples. They might want to rethink their argument, because they are unwittingly lending support to evil bigoted doubleplusbad social conservative hatethink.

Anna, thanks, I've verified that and will update immediately.

This, of course, should also be filed under the "it sounded like a good idea at the time" file for in-vitro fertilization itself.

Untenured, they always count on the huge pile of unstated assumptions to avoid those consequences. For example, take the assumption that embryos don't count as offspring. If we rejected that assumption, it would be much more difficult for them, because the discarded embryos would also be "offspring." In the case you are bringing up, they'd just bring up their own set of studies purporting to show that kids aren't any worse off with homosexual couples or blaming any problems they do experience on "homophobia" and go on their merry way.

Titus, bingo. I've thought that about IVF for a long time.

Lydia, this comment may belong in another thread, but it's related to the "choice devours itself" theme. I'm sure you've seen the story about the couple who has lately fled Sweden because of a new ban on homeschooling, and the requirement that all children over the age of 1 be in the care of a government-run day care. This quote was very interesting to me, and seems relevant to the discussion at hand:

“The argument they give about this is that every child has a ‘right’ to daycare. This is not a right that parents are allowed to interfere with.”

The Swedish ambassador to the United States commented thus:

“The [Swedish] government does not find that home schooling is necessary for religious or philosophical reasons.”

Got that? The government does not deem it necessary to opt out of a government program. Therefore participation is mandatory.

Again, this might belong in a different thread, and I don't mean to threadjack this into a discussion of homeschooling (about which basically everything that needs saying has been said), but it's relevant to the idea that political liberalism is so at odds with reality that it cannot but become tyrannical, and particularly on those issues where it promises happiness through greater "choice."

Thanks, Sage, I'm planning to put up a post about that, too. I think it fits the pattern because originally the whole idea was supposed to be that working outside the home and putting kids in daycare was this great benefit and opportunity for the mother herself, and now it's being forced on women who don't want it.

"Choice devours itself" resonates with Roger Scruton's observation that Sartre's vision of modern life is envisaged as a sphere of absolute freedom in which choice is the only value, and in which everything we choose returns to the Nothingness from which we conjure it.

(I don't think even Sartre noticed that the exaltation of abstract choice would almost certainly produce coercion.)

When I taught a bioethics course, these were the kinds of issues I brought up to make kids question whether IVF was a good idea. It's good to see that one man's reductio is another's "not far enough!"

Thanks for bringing these articles to our attention.

When I hear of "ethicist" teachings, I reach for my revolver.

I have taken a bioethics course and I can say we discussed the most important issues but I am not quite certain it gives the wanted results in each and everyone of the attending. Because the ethics is not something you could learn when you are 30 if you don't already have.

W4 is getting human spammers now. Nice.

(Lydia, "Moving Company" is actually a manual spammer; check the URL in the byline).

Yeah, I know. My computer's been slow, so I didn't take the time to junk it. And now if I junk it, I'll have to delete yours as well, and this one, or no one will know what we're talking about. :-)

Can an example be cited of a committed utilitarian boiethicst who has submitted himself to his own calculations, turned out on the negative end of them, and still pressed forward with his position?


The man who says the world is overpopulated and insists that this evil he perceives be reversed never goes to the top of a building to jump off to rectify the evil. How come?

The deep undercurrent of modern bioethical thought and utilitarian computation is the primacy of self and personal freedom. Not of the subject being discussed, but of the person doing the thinking. If I am primarily interested in maximizing personal freedom, then how can I make a computation of what that means without including a big, fat constant that represents myself?

Therefore, by that thinking, if someone has the gall to bring a clumpo of cells - a disposable, superfluous nonperson - into personhood, then by damn that had better be a person who can improve the world to my benefit and not be a drag on my existence. How to make sure? By a moral imperative enforced by government.

"Who is my neighbor?", a scholar of the law asked. And Jesus replied, "The man who does not burden you."

I think you should call it The Ouroborous Award. "The Worm Ouroborous" is the official term describing the Celtic symbol of the worm / dragon that is eating its own tail.
It also helps that there is that demonic / dragon element to the title.

A nice informative blog. Female abortion is a tricky topic and the government has to implement rules and regulations to make sure that such kind of forced abortion, assisted suicides, etc are avoided.

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