Lessons of Reproductive Ethics for Principlism


  • Morten Dige Department of Philosophy and History of Ideas, Aarhus University




This article brings together two debates in bioethics more substantively than has been the case until now. One is the methodological debate over "principlism," i.e., the theoretical framework for analyzing and solving (bio)ethical problems proposed by Beauchamp and Childress in Principles of Biomedical Ethics (PBE). The other is the normative debate about reproductive ethics, i.e., procreative rights and obligations in a time of pervasive opportunities for making detailed choices about the properties and capacities of future people. The obvious point of bringing the debates together is to show how they can illuminate each other in fruitful ways consistent with the method of reflective equilibrium endorsed in PBE. Furthermore, discussions of reproductive ethics is almost absent in PBE, making it an interesting "test case" on how principlist theory can have an impact on and be affected by confrontations with new practices and considerations in biomedicine. Reproductive ethics is especially interesting due to the so-called non-identity considerations, which pose a challenge to common morality views on harm to and respect for persons. My focus is mainly on some methodological points about the import of concrete normative discussions for formulating basic normative principles. However, I unfold a number of substantial points in order to demonstrate this. It is my impression that most writers on principlism underestimate the effect of engaging with concrete problems. Specifically, I conclude that reflecting on procreative obligations provides strong reasons for specifying the basic principles in ways that uncover new dimensions of them and not just new applications.

Key words: principlism, reproductive ethics, non-identity problem, nonmaleficence, respect for persons


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How to Cite

Dige, M. (2018). Lessons of Reproductive Ethics for Principlism. Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, 13(1), 5-20. https://doi.org/10.5324/eip.v13i1.2726



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