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Human capabilities, mild autism, deafness and the morality of embryo selection
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Health and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Health and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
2013 (English)In: Medicine, Health care and Philosophy, ISSN 1386-7423, E-ISSN 1572-8633, Vol. 16, no 4, 817-824 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A preimplantation genetic test to discriminate between severe and mild autism spectrum disorder might be developed in the foreseeable future. Recently, the philosophers Julian Savulescu and Guy Kahane claimed that there are strong reasons for prospective parents to make use of such a test to prevent the birth of children who are disposed to autism or Asperger’s disorder. In this paper we will criticize this claim. We will discuss the morality of selection for mild autism in embryo selection in a hypothetical in vitro fertilization (IVF) situation where preimplantation genetic diagnosis is performed and compare this with a similar selection for congenital deafness. To do this we first discuss relevant human differences. We then introduce the principle of human capabilities (PC) and compare this principle with the principle of procreative beneficence (PB) introduced by Savulescu and Kahane. We apply the two principles to selection for mild autism and selection for congenital deafness. We argue that PC allows for the selection for mild autism but rules out selection for congenital deafness. PB will not give clear answers; the ruling of PB depends to a large extent on expected social, cultural and political developments. We will argue that PC is preferable to PB. We will discuss arguments for the value of mild autism for individuals who have this condition and argue that they are able to lead a life with human dignity provided autism-friendly social circumstances are present. Neither PC nor PB yields strong reasons for prospective parents to seek to prevent the birth of children who are disposed to mild autism spectrum disorder.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Netherlands, 2013. Vol. 16, no 4, 817-824 p.
Keyword [en]
autism, reproduction, genetic selection, ethics, human capabilities, procreative beneficence, quality of life
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-89704DOI: 10.1007/s11019-013-9464-6ISI: 000327128500021OAI: diva2:609097
Available from: 2013-03-04 Created: 2013-03-04 Last updated: 2014-08-04
In thesis
1. Reflections on Autism: Ethical Perspectives on Autism Spectrum Disorder in Health Care and Education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reflections on Autism: Ethical Perspectives on Autism Spectrum Disorder in Health Care and Education
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Reflektioner om autism : Etiska perspektiv på autismspektrumstörning i hälsovård och utbildning
Abstract [en]

In the four papers presented in this dissertation I analyze and discuss various value statements and moral stances, which I regard as unjustifiably harmful for persons with Autism and obstacles for the creation of an Autism-friendly society. In the papers I try to show that the positions underpinning the Autism-phobic moral stances are not warranted and cannot be defended in a good way. In doing so, I hope to transform the harmful moral intuitions underlying these positions into autism-friendly ones. The first paper investigates the Neurodiversity claim that ‘Autism is a natural variation’. The claim is interpreted and investigated and an argument is given that, contrary to Low-Functioning Autism, High-Functioning Autism can indeed be seen as a natural variation, without necessarily being seen as a disability. The second paper focuses on the problem for persons with Autism to adapt to prosocial lying, which is saying something not true but socially acceptable in a situation. By comparing a Kantian approach and a care ethics approach, the paper ends up recommending teaching persons with Autism to lie in a rule based and empathic way. The third paper deals with the morality of embryo selection in IVF. Based on a widely shared intuition of natural capabilities, arguments are given that it is morally legitimate to choose an Autistic embryo instead of a ‘normal’ one, contrary to arguments given by proponents of ‘every child should have the best chance of the best life’. The fourth paper deals with moral education. An argument is given that due to problems with cognitive empathy children with Autism should be taught pro-social behavior in a rule based way.

Abstract [sv]

I de fyra artiklarna, som presenteras i denna avhandling, analyserar och diskuterar jag olika värdeuttalanden och moraliska ställningstaganden, vilka jag anser inte kan berättigas och är skadliga för personer med autism och utgör hinder för skapandet av ett autismvänligt samhälle. I artiklarna försöker jag visa att de ståndpunkter som ligger till grund för autism - fobiska moraliska ställningstaganden inte kan berättigas eller försvaras på ett rimligt sätt. På så sätt hoppas jag att omvandla de skadliga moraliska intuitioner som ligger bakom dessa positioner till autismvänliga sådana. Den första artikeln undersöker påståendet från förespråkare av neurodiversitet att ”autism är en naturlig variation”. Påståendet tolkas och utreds och ett argument ges att, i motsats till låg fungerande autism, kan högfungerande autism faktiskt ses som en naturlig variation, utan att nödvändigtvis ses som ett handikapp. Den andra artikeln fokuserar på problem för personer med autism för att anpassa sig till att ljuga prosocialt, nämligen att säga något som är osant men socialt lämpligt i en viss situation. Genom att jämföra en Kantiansk strategi med en omsorgsetisk strategi rekommenderar artikeln att undervisning i att ljuga på ett regelbaserat och empatiskt sätt bör ges till personer med autism. Den tredje artikeln behandlar moralen kring väljande av embryo i IVF. Baserat på en allmänt delad intuition om förekomsten och betydelsen av naturliga förmågor ges ett argument för att det är moraliskt legitimt att välja ett autistiskt embryo i stället för ett ”normalt”, i motsats till argument som ges av förespråkarna för ”varje barn ska få bästa chansen till det bästa livet”. Den fjärde artikeln handlar om hur barn ska bibringas moral genom utbildning. Ett argument ges att på grund av problem med kognitiv empati så bör barn med autism undervisas i pro - socialt beteende på ett regelbaserat sätt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 78 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 606Linköping Dissertations on Health and Society, ISSN 1651-1646 ; 24
Autism, applied ethics, health care, moral education, Neurodiversity, Autism, tillämpad etik, hälsovård, utbildning i moral, neurodiversitet
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-104418 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-104418 (DOI)978-91-7519-402-8 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-04-10, Aulan, Hus 240 (ingång 15), Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)

The series name Dissertations on Health and Society is incomplete. The correct and complete name is Linköping Dissertations on Health and Society.

Available from: 2014-02-17 Created: 2014-02-17 Last updated: 2014-04-11Bibliographically approved

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