By Michael Cook

September 14, 2012 (BioEdge.org) Eugenics is alive and well in British academia. Stephen Wilkinson, of Lancaster University, recently published a long discussion paper, “Eugenics and the Ethics of Selective Reproduction”, together with another bioethicist, Eve Garrard.

Their focus is the moral challenges that IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) offer to parents who want a child of a particular type. After carefully framing the arguments, they endorse: embryo selection techniques to avoid disease and disability in children, selecting embryos to produce a child with a disability such as deafness, and sex selection.

All these are examples of second wave eugenics, in which decisions about the future of a child lie in the hands of parents rather than the state.

But the most interesting part of the paper is their discussion of the use of the word eugenics. Ever since the Nazis implemented their brutal policies of racial and genetic hygiene, use of the word eugenics has been taboo continues…

Eugenics Revived

If you search in Google News for “eugenics”, the principal story comes from North Carolina. Its legislature recently voted to distribute US$10 million to victims of its former eugenics law. Of the 7,600 people who were involuntarily sterilized in North Carolina, only about 200 are still alive. But compensation is a gesture worth making…

…So it’s a bit odd to read that British academics are promoting eugenics all over again. In a discussion paper sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, the world’s second-largest private funder of medical research, they argue that there is nothing wrong with improving the human gene pool, as long as it is done voluntarily and ethically. More…