Life Studies Blog (Old)

April 28, 2003

Reconsidering Ethical Issues of Prenatal Screening

I am going to join the conference, "What are the Common Grounds: An American and Japanese Dialogue on Genetic Disease Linked to Racial and Ethnic Groups." 8-9 May, 2003, Tokyo. (Details here) The following is my abstract. (List of abstracts by other participants)

Reconsidering Ethical Issues of Prenatal Screening
Masahiro Morioka

I would like to start with a fundamental question: "What is wrong with prenatal screening?" Many bioethicists might find no ethical problems in prenatal diagnosis, but in Japan, disabled activists and feminists still think that there are ethical problems with prenatal screening and selective abortion even if it is made by free decision. Disabled activists in 1970s argued that technologies that select the quality of human life threaten their "existence" because these technologies systematically deprive them of a "fundamental sense of security." They thought that if these technologies are widely accepted in our society, many people start to see disabled people as humans who should not have been born. Their glances toward disabled people disempower the will to live, and deprive disabled people of a sense of security that they are unconditionally accepted to our society. Disabled activists argued the following points to protect "fundamental sense of security" in our society.

1) They demanded that the existing laws encouraging the erosion of "fundamental sense of security" should be abolished or revised.
2) They demanded the government and scientists to refrain from developing new technologies that would lead to the selection of human life.
3) They hoped that ordinary people would refrain from having prenatal diagnoses and abortions of disabled fetuses.

We need to develop a kind of "wisdom" that we should voluntarily refrain from choosing the alternatives that may erode our "fundamental sense of security," even if they are not illegal. What is needed, in addition to "wisdom," to protect "fundamental sense of security" in our society is to create an "untouchable area (sanctuary)" from technological interventions in human life. That is to say, we put some reproductive technologies or their future possibilities into an untouchable area and prohibit us from using or developing them. In the conference I would like to discuss these points.

Photo: A signboard to urge drivers to slow down. You can see a driver's yell "Oh my God!" ("Uwaa..." in Japanese) and a crying little girl.

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