Human embryos should be genetically screened for “personality flaws” so that parents can choose better children, a professor in practical ethics has claimed.
Prof Julian Savulescu says that screening embryos to create “ethically better” children could be seen as a “moral obligation”.
He adds: “Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and dispositions to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.
“They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others. That doesn’t necessarily imply that people should be coerced into making a choice, but we should encourage them.”
But Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: “This is eugenics repackaged. In his view people only have worth based on their personality traits and talents. Those that are ‘genetically inferior’ in some way, including those with ‘personality flaws’, should have no right to life.”
She added: “We have to recognise and resist the eugenic mind-set. Every human has worth and value that is not based on a string of genes, on personality or on his/her perceived talents. No-one should ever be discarded in favour of another who is deemed ‘superior’ in some way.”
Prof Savulescu’s controversial comments were made in the Reader’s Digest. He is the Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.
Last year Prof Savulescu said that human embryos should be screened for their potential intelligence and only the smartest allowed to live.
He said: “My own view is that the economic and social benefits of higher cognition are reasons in favour of selection, but secondary to the benefits to the individual.”
But Dr David Amor, Director of the Victorian Clinical Genetic Services in Australia, warned that the genetics associated with intelligence were still poorly understood.