Queen's University

Genetic Ethics: An Introduction

Book cover: Genetic Ethics—An Introduction, by Queen's researcher Dr. Colin Farrelly. Cover photo depicts a composite profile made from torn photos of 3 women

In this book, I contemplate the various ethical and social quandaries raised by the Genetic Revolution. Recent biomedical advances such as genetic screening, gene therapy, and genome editing might be used to promote equality of opportunity, reproductive freedom, healthy aging, and the prevention and treatment of disease. However, these technologies also raise a host of ethical questions: Is the idea of ‘genetically engineering’ humans a morally objectionable form of eugenics? Should parents undergoing IVF be permitted to screen embryos for the sex of their offspring? Would it be ethical to alter the rate at which humans age, greatly increasing longevity at a time when the human population is already at potentially unsustainable levels?

I apply an original Virtue Ethics framework to assess these and other challenges posed by the Genetic Revolution. Chapters discuss Virtue Ethics in relation to eugenics, infectious and chronic disease, evolutionary biology, epigenetics, happiness, reproductive freedom, and longevity. This approach creates a roadmap for thinking ethically about technological progress that will be of practical use to ethicists and scientists, and provides an ideal introduction for students of bioethics, applied ethics, biomedical sciences, and related courses in philosophy and life sciences. (Read More)