Open Access

Procreative Beneficence, Obligation, and Eugenics

Genomics, Society and Policy20073:43

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-3-3-43

Published: 15 December 2007


The argument of Julian Savulescu's 2001 paper, "Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children" is flawed in a number of respects. Savulescu confuses reasons with obligations and equivocates between the claim that parents have some reason to want the best for their children and the more radical claim that they are morally obligated to attempt to produce the best child possible. Savulescu offers a prima facie implausible account of parental obligation, as even the best parents typically fail to do everything they think would be best for their children let alone everything that is in fact best for their children. The profound philosophical difficulties which beset the attempt to formulate a plausible account of the best human life constitute a further independent reason to resile from Savulescu's conclusion. Savulescu's argument also requires parents to become complicit with racist and homophobic (and other forms of) oppression, which is yet another reason to reject it. Removing the equivocation from Savulescu's argument allows us to see that the assertion of an obligation to choose the "best child" has much more in common with the "old" eugenics than Savulescu acknowledges.