Procreative beneficence

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Procreative beneficence is the controversial[1] putative moral obligation of parents in a position to select their children, for instance through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), to favor those expected to have the best life.[2] An argument in favor of this principle is that traits (such as empathy, memory, etc.) are "all-purpose means" in the sense of being instrumental in realizing whatever life plans the child may come to have.[3]

The term was coined by Julian Savulescu, a professor of applied ethics at St Cross College in Oxford.


Robert Sparrow wrote, in the Journal of Medical Ethics, that Savulescu's justification for the principle of procreative beneficence can and should be extended further. If parents have a moral obligation to create children likely to have the best possible life, they should prefer to have children that have been genetically engineered for an optimal chance at such a life, even if those children bear little or no genetic relation to them.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ de Melo-Martin I (2004). "On our obligation to select the best children: a reply to Savulescu". Bioethics 18 (1): 72–83. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2004.00379.x. PMID 15168699. 
  2. ^ Savulescu J (October 2001). "Procreative beneficence: why we should select the best children". Bioethics 15 (5-6): 413–26. doi:10.1111/1467-8519.00251. PMID 12058767. 
  3. ^ Hens, K.; Dondorp, W.; Handyside, A. H.; Harper, J.; Newson, A. J.; Pennings, G.; Rehmann-Sutter, C.; De Wert, G. (2013). "Dynamics and ethics of comprehensive preimplantation genetic testing: A review of the challenges". Human Reproduction Update 19 (4): 366. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt009. 
  4. ^ Sparrow, Robert (April 4, 2013). "In vitro eugenics". Journal of Medical Ethics. doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-101200. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit]