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The Ethical Controversy in The Eugenics Concept

  • Subject: Science
  • Category: Genetics
  • Essay Topic: Eugenics
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 2139
  • Published: 05 November 2018
  • Downloads: 52
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The term and concept of Eugenics was introduced into our society dating back to the year 1883, by Francis Galton, cousin of Darwin (Harvard Law Review, 2004). Since that year, throughout history and into our current time the study and debate surrounding Eugenics has taken many forms, but controversy as society developed a better understanding of its concept, has grown in epic proportions. Today we are subjected to constant debates of the pros and cons of Eugenics and its study and use in healthcare today. Discussed in the following pages will be the definition and application of Eugenics, and how Eugenics has developed the debate regarding the pros and cons of its use in the healthcare industry, and how these debates have tested the ethics of healthcare and its professionals in many ways.

To first understand the ethical debate surrounding Eugenics, one must understand the definition of Eugenics and how it is perceived in our current society versus how it originally viewed upon its conception. The theory of Eugenics and the term Eugenics dates back to 1883. Eugenics is defined as the science utilized towards using the control of discouraging the reproduction between those that were considered “undesirables” in society. This was encouraged to reduce the number of such “undesirables” that are present in society, based on genetic defects, or undesirable traits (Genetics Generation, n.d.).

This concept has spurred national and international debates in the ethical realm of the healthcare system, and society in general. In a society where we want everyone to feel that they have equal rights, and receive fair and just treatment, it is not surprising that a concept of trying to control reproduction to avoid the growth of genetic defects, and the further spread of issues that are passed from generation to generation. The concept of Eugenics does not fit the mold in allowing everyone to have equal opportunities and be viewed as equals to those in society.

Understanding the Eugenics Ethical Issue

The ethical debate surrounding Eugenics, first begins with having a full understanding of Eugenics, and reason that many have looked at it’s a success, and yet just as many have viewed it as a failure, and immoral. The Oxford Dictionary defines Eugenics officially as “the science of improving the human population (primarily human) for desirable characteristics” (Suckling, 2000). Keeping this definition in the forefront it is no wonder that the ethical debate begins. For those, primarily in medical and scientific fields, this science allows for the healthcare sector to further develop an understanding of inherent traits that how to genetically control them, and hence control “breeding” in the human race. On the other hand, the public, focused on religious groups, has developed the ethical debate if human kind should control genetic outcomes and interfere in the process of what God is to control. This controversial debate on Eugenics begins.

Applying Ethical Principles to the Eugenics Debate

When a discussion of ethics takes place regarding an issue, there are several principles that are associated with that of Ethics, and its application in the healthcare field. In the case of Eugenics one of the most relevant of the ethical principles that can be applied to the Eugenics debate is that of Autonomy and Beneficence. In the case of Eugenics these two principles can both easily be applied and debated among those that support and those that debate against Eugenics. The Principle of Autonomy in Ethics relates to the “personal rule of self” (Baillie, 2013). Principle of Beneficence is defined as “action that is done for the benefit of others” (Baillie,2013). When you view these two principles side by side they can both be utilized in the debate of Eugenics and how supports, and those who are against the practice relate these principles when the debate of the ethical stance takes off.

Principle of Autonomy

Debates circle that the autonomy principle allows the healthcare industry that those that wish to undergo the science of Eugenics and allowing the “undesirables” to be eliminated from society can be applied when for instance a family, individual, etc. and help to alleviate the stress and issues that are related to one self when it applies to reproduction in a family for instance that may have a genetic defect that is passed along and there for would help to eliminate additional occurrences of these issues for one self in their family.

Principle of Beneficence

Applying the Principle of Beneficence in the Eugenics Debate and how utilizing Eugenics, through for example embryo selection, is for the benefit of others. This area would take the concept of beneficence and apply it in the matter that the use of Eugenics is beneficial for others and therefore is completely ethical and that it should not be challenged. This approach for example medically may feel that embryo selection, genetic modification, etc. is for the benefit of society when it may result in less birth defects, or that a couple can genetically make a selection of the embryo for a particular gender of a child, or to work on elimination of certain defects. While as human we would welcome a reduction in birth defects, and want everyone to be happy with society and those in it, there is the debate that in doing so and utilizing Eugenics that we are taking work that is “God’s work to do” in our own hands and thus ethically wrong.

Pros and Cons of Eugenics

Eugenics has many supports, and just as many of those that do not support the practice or the concept and idea in any fashion. Reviewing the pros and cons regarding Eugenics is not a cut and dry process and many of these pros and cons can be viewed in many ways when we take into account the view point of the person reviewing the concept as well as their viewpoint in many different aspects that must be incorporated in the scientific process of Eugenics. When discussing ethics in any fashion the goal is to achieve an understanding the moral issues that are involved in the issue, and how morally this may affect those that are involved (Buchanan, 2007).

Pros to Eugenics

One of the most popular topics when one is reviewing with society feels is a “pro” to Eugenics is that the possible engineering of the genetic makeup of a child allows the chance to prevent negative hereditary conditions. This would less the population of children that have mental and/or physical problems, and deformities caused by genetic issues. If a family has a history of a genetic disorder that has been passed down over the years, this would allow there to be a break in this cycle during reproduction.

Often debated but a “pro” of many who look toward Eugenics, is the ability to control the gender of their offspring. Often cases families that are utilizing invitro fertilization may be undergoing this process due to an onset of inability to conceive in traditional methods, or the ability to not conceive without this assistance at all. This allows them to control the gender of their offspring to their liking, knowing that this may be a one and only chance. There are opposing views to this, but it is considered a “pro” to Eugenics by those who support this process.

In the medical world where one is always looking for medical advancement, Eugenics is viewed as a route towards this. While Eugenics is far from perfect and is still an area that requires additional research to get 100% accurate and effective results, the medical community in the form of doctors, and researchers feels that this is an avenue in technology and science that is a “pro” to being able to make further advancements in medical research and innovation (Weinhart, 1999).

Cons to Eugenics

The “cons” to Eugenics are often those that are most vocally expressed in society today, and take on a strong stance from many in the community. People always seem to voice the negatives louder than the positives in many situations, and Eugenics has proven to be no different. The “cons” have significant basis and need extensive consideration when the ethics of Eugenics are being evaluated, but must be addressed in a fashion where they are based on credit and factual research and not just personal opinion.

A true “con” of Eugenics is the cost associated with it. Many times, this may not be considered in the ethical evaluation but is it “fair” or “ethical” if it is not affordable and accessible due to cost to everyone. We come across this type of debate with many items that need ethical consideration, but it definitely applies to this type of procedure, and creates a large gap between those that can and cannot afford this type of help.

One “con” that has widely been discussed is the thought that Eugenics creates discrimination in a world where we are trying to eliminate discrimination and make everyone feel as though they are equal in our society. For those that may be “engineered” would this make them superior over those that are not. Does this allow for us to have a way to have another divide in society, and how would those “engineered” through genetics be accepted in society or by a pool of their peers. Along these same lines are we limiting or eliminating diversity in our culture by engineering “acceptable” traits. Isn’t diversity one of the qualities that our society boasts on?

Eugenics originated in the world of the Nazi’s and many have not let go of this ideology and history when they view the ethics of Eugenics. While Eugenics is developed with the best scientific beliefs in what they feel they can control and help make a better society, this ideology threatens many beliefs when it comes to Eugenics, and is one area that can easily be influenced by personal opinion rather than facts.

One final “con” that is while Eugenics has all of the right intentions in making the world a better place, when we look at science and how Eugenics influences the gene pool and composition genetically, are we then limiting the gene pool and encouraging new genetic issues that have not been faced yet at this point. Eliminating genetic disorders over and over, limits the gene pool and can be compared to those issues that arise with animals and serious ailments in “extreme purebreds” (Weingart, 1999). This feeds back into the concerns that many scientific methods bring on of we solve one problem, but potentially great more and greater problems moving forward.

Contrasts in Opinion and Conclusion

Eugenics has over the years created many concerns, and continues even today to be evaluated and reevaluated for its ethical premise and whether or not the scientific control and “genetic engineering” is a science that can offer more pros than cons. The theories and principles surrounding ethics, and the “moral” code can be applied to Eugenics relatively easily, however the fact remains that is a very controversial area in our public society and unfortunately in most cases has the ability to make determining the ethical stance on the subject of Eugenics very difficult.

Public opinion on Eugenics continues to allow the debate to grow. In many instances throughout the United States we have seen very limited Eugenic use, and it is in most cases not readily available or accepted by the general public. Those that get past the moral concerns and how much we as a society want to make adjustments to the process that was established by a higher being in God, are in most cases confined to the realm of science in their everyday lives, and those that are the wealthy and are able to get past many of the cons and have access to this type of assistance. For the most part, Eugenics is not being utilized to help the “general” public in any manner at this time.

The controversy for ethical evaluation for Eugenics is one that has no end in sight. Until we as a society are able to get a better understanding of what is involved, the pros and cons can be brought to a more level playing field the ethical, “moral” standards of Eugenics will be questioned. As varied as the scientific uses can be and reasons behind wanting to explore and further develop the science of Eugenics, so are there the further development of how it is viewed and accepted in society. Can we find a ground that allows us a society to utilize Eugenics to some extent with the offense of others, and without the dangers of developing problems that are then in many cases more severe than the ones that we have faced prior. The fine line of balance and a true decision of the ethical standpoint on Eugenics is continuing to develop and in many cases, may not see a ruling in the near future.

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