Who should come into existence? An investigation of the ethical questions raised by new reproductive technologies and procreative decisions

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This PhD thesis investigates ethical, social, and political questions raised by new reproductive technologies. Within this study, debates on the ethics of new reproductive technologies and on how these should be regulated in democratic societies are approached as debates on the ethics of eugenics. Eugenics has a bad reputation due to its tainted history, and 20th century eugenic policies and practices are often referenced to condemn new technologies. This study seeks to go beyond a negative understanding of eugenics to approach debates on the ethics of new reproductive technologies in terms of considerations of who should come into existence, and on how to distribute the burdens and benefits of such decisions. This study consists of four parts. In the first part, I analyse and reflect on debates on the ethics of new reproductive technologies and show how these are characterised by moral disagreement and frequent references to 20th century eugenics. In the second part, I turn to ethical questions pertaining to new reproductive technologies more specifically. I discuss the ethical standing and implications of satisfying the preference to have genetically related children in connection with two technologies: genome editing and mitochondrial replacement techniques. In the third part, I discuss questions related to the governance of these technologies considering the plurality of ethical views and beliefs held by authors participating in these debates and members of the public. In the final part, I move from individual reproductive decisions and preferences to the far-reaching and cumulative effects of these decisions on third parties. I assess the strengths and weaknesses of the individualcentred framework that underpins reproductive freedom and of alternative frameworks that seek to account for the broader effects of procreative decisions.
Date of Award1 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorSilvia Camporesi (Supervisor) & Barbara Phil Prainsack (Supervisor)

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