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Researching the Genetic Enhancement: Unethical Practice and Social Norms Essay

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Updated: Jan 4th, 2022

Introduction

The term genetic enhancement refers to the use of genetic engineering to change or improve one’s traits and capabilities (Borenstein 5180. In most cases, the term is confused with gene therapy. The latter refers to the use of genetic engineering to repair malfunctioning genes or disseminate functioning genes into one’s body in a bid to cure a specific illness (Borenstein 518). Breakthrough in the medical field has led to numerous methods of genetic enhancements being employed today. Drugs have been developed that facilitate hormonal growth in human beings (Devettere 437). These are being used by parents in an attempt to help them and their children grow. Cases of athletes using genetically modified drugs to enhance their performance have also been reported. The practice of genetic enhancement is not only unethical but has also led to the emergence of inequality in society as well as other evils that undermines social norms.

Genetic enhancement challenge the value of social equality

One of the challenges that have emerged with the advent of genetic enhancement is the inability to ensure that all people have access to the technology (Seck 56). Generally, the costs associated with the technology are high making it hard for the less fortunate in the society to benefit from the technology. This implies that only the rich can benefit from the technology resulting in the emergence of social classes. Those that can afford genetic enhancement become superior to those who can not afford the enhancement. There are some forms of genetic enhancements that can be passed from one generation to another. A good example of these enhancements is germline modification (Mehlman & Berg pp. 546-553). This means that the lineage of those who use the technology is expected to comprise of superior people. Consequently, using genetic enhancement would draw a clear line between the enhanced and those who are not enhanced.

Genetic enhancement results in unfair advantages

The practice of genetic enhancement in itself is unfair. This is because the practice is costly and can only be accessed by the wealthy (Seck 56). It disadvantages the poor who can not afford it. In addition, the enhancement leads to people doing things they could not manage naturally. This disadvantages those who can do the same without enhancement as it becomes difficult for them to exploit their capacities. A good example is athletics. There are people who are capable of running without enhancements (Seck pp. 56-60). Consequently, they get an opportunity to exploit and benefit from their talents. Using enhancements to improve one’s performance in athletics disadvantages such people. Despite some of the athletes being identified to use enhancement drugs and their titles being revoked, there are many who have gone unnoticed thus benefiting at the expense of others.

Genetic enhancement violates human rights

The proponents of genetic enhancements argue that it is an opportunity through which people can mold the future of their children. Through technology, parents can significantly contribute to developing the qualities of their children. They argue that genetic enhancement can facilitate in enhancing people’s intelligence as well as in the development of cures for genetic diseases (Borenstein pp. 517-521). Nevertheless, the enhancement curtails the ability of children to shape their future. Through genetic enhancements, parents are capable of remaking the genetic constituents of their children. Hence, they are capable of completing turning around the future of their children (Borenstein pp. 522-530). This implies that through enhancement parents can positively or negatively affect the future of their children. In short terms, the practice is unethical and immoral as it infringes on people’s life by artificially redirecting one’s destiny. Definitely, some children would not be happy to realize that their parents had a hand in their fate. For the unsuccessful, they would never forgive their parents (Glover 79). It is imperative that all children are given an opportunity to determine their future despite them needing assistance from their parents. Rather than influencing them in molding their future, parents ought to just act as mentors.

The practice is against religious teachings and social norms

Genetic enhancement can be viewed as going against some pre-determined biological processes (Borenstein 527). Those who participate in it can be said to be going beyond their bounds and trying to assume God’s role. For them, they believe that God did not perfectly create mankind and there are numerous improvements that needed to be made. This is against religious teachings.

The technology is bound to contribute to enhancing vices such as abortion in society as well as intensifying divorces. For instance, if a parent wishes to give birth to a child with specific qualities, he or she may turn down his or her partner on identifying that he or she does not exhibit the required qualities (Glover pp. 113-119). Eventually, this may lead to betrayals in marriage or even divorce. Besides, parents may authorize for tests to be carried out on their unborn babies to determine if they have the desired characteristics. On learning that they do not have the desired characteristics, such parents may decide to carry out an abortion.

Genetic enchantment poses threats to social cohesion and goodwill. As mentioned earlier, genetic enhancement leads to inequality in society. If people understood that their success is a result of superior genes and not their commitment, they would feel compelled to split their genetic fruits with others in society. On the other hand, they would be reluctant to split their success with the less fortunate in society if they learned that success was not a result of good luck. The people that are genetically enhanced would look down upon the ones that are not and take advantage to exploit them.

Despite the scientists being able to enhance people’s capability through genetic engineering, they have not been able to predict the future behavior of genetically enhanced humans. Consequently, at times the enhanced humans may fail to achieve their objectives. For instance, children born out of the practice may turn out to be misanthropic (Mehlman & Berg pp. 554-559). They may consider themselves to be mutants who were developed in test tubes thus feeling to be unworthy. Based on films such as Gattaca, it is evident that genetically enhanced persons are highly susceptible to suffering from depression (Seck 73).

Responding to genetic enhancement

To ensure that people shun using genetic enhancements there are numerous procedures that ought to be adopted. In the issue of athletics, all countries need to promote and support those people that are found to be naturally talented in athletics. People need to be educated on some of the negative effects of genetic enhancements as well as encouraged to tolerate the differences in capabilities exhibited in society (Seck 70). Rather than using genetic engineering to improve one’s capacity in a field that he or she feels not to excel in, it would be wise to ask such a person to look within himself and identify the field he is talented in then perfect it.

Another approach that ought to be used in eliminating cases of unfairness that arise from genetic enhancement is banning the practice (Devettere 438). All countries need to declare the practice illegal and endorse heavy punishments on those found to practice it. This would discourage people from practicing genetic engineering. It would also ensure that even the rich do not take advantage of their wealth to acquire the technology and use it in exploiting the poor.

Conclusion

In spite of banning the use of genetic enhancements being considered to be the most viable method of controlling its use, the method; on the other hand, undermines people’s rights. It would not be good to limit people from pursuing goals they wish to pursue. Based on equality, the poor would claim to have significantly achieved their objectives (Seck pp. 61-73). However, the rich would be disadvantaged as they would be prevented from pursuing their goals.

This underlines the need for health professionals to adhere to professional ethics when using genetic enhancements. Health professionals ought to only practice genetic enhancements only on very crucial events. For instance, they need to only practice it if it will benefit the fetus or the infant (Devettere pp. 438-442). The practice needs to steer clear from enhancements aimed at improving one’s features or attributes. This would help in ensuring that the rich do not take advantage of its accessibility to exploit the poor. Finally, there is a need for health professionals to ensure that everybody has access to the technology regardless of his or her income. By so doing, everybody will make use of the technology thus ensuring that there is equality and fairness in society.

Works Cited

Borenstein, Jason. “The wisdom of caution: genetic enhancement and future children.” Science and Engineering Ethics 15.4 (2009): 517-530.

Devettere, Raymond J. Practical decision making in health care ethics: Cases and concepts. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010.

Glover, Jonathan. Choosing children: The ethical dilemmas of genetic intervention. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Mehlman, Maxwell J. & Berg, Jessica W. Human subjects protection in biomedical enhancement research. The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 36 (2008): 546-559.

Seck, Chris. Arguing for and against genetic engineering. The Stanford Review 38.7 (2007): 56-73.

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IvyPanda. "Researching the Genetic Enhancement: Unethical Practice and Social Norms." January 4, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/researching-the-genetic-enhancement/.

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