Review: “From chance to choice: genetics and justice” by Allen Buchanan, Dan W. Brock, Norman Daniels and Daniel Wikler

06 February 2015

A Buchanan, D W Brock, N Daniels, et al. Cambridge University Press, 2000, £17.95, $US29.95, pp 398. ISBN 0521660017 With over 10 000 bases of DNA being sequenced around the world per minute, it is vital that ethical discussion continues to keep pace with genetic research. This contribution by four top theorists in bioethics carefully considers the implications of the many ways genetic information will influence human health and reproduction, by considering “the most basic moral principles that would guide public policy and individual choice concerning the use of genetic interventions in a just and humane society” (4–5). Proceeding with the themes of rights, justice, and harm, problems addressed by the authors include: the significance of the moral difference between treating genetic disease and altering personality characteristics; whether the utilisation of prenatal interventions to avoid disability discriminates against the disabled, and who should have control over the utilisation of this technology. The main focus of the work is upon the future of genetics, however this is framed within an “ethical autopsy” of eugenics, in which the inappropriateness of past practices is considered. It is argued that the wrongs of eugenics (broadly, a denial of freedom) must be recognised when considering what an ethical practice should now constitute, but that wanting to provide future generations with genes that could contribute to their lives going better is not necessarily unpalatable. It is vital, however, that any such procedures are pursued justly.