Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1999


Two paradigms dominate contemporary ethical and legal debate about the risks posed to children who owe their lives to reproductive technology. One asks whether the children have lives so tragic that life itself is harmful. The other approach asks whether children so conceived are likely to enjoy a minimally decent existence. Although the two approaches have quite different analytic foundations, they share one crucial trait. Each concludes that children who owe their lives to reproductive technology are harmed only when that technology causes genuinely catastrophic injuries.Because these conventional paradigms define harmful conduct exclusively by reference to the magnitude of the injuries suffered, they sometimes lead to indefensible conclusions. This article explores an alternative way of determining whether an existence-inducing act is harmful to future children. The methodology proposed here focuses on the choices available to providers and parents who engage in reproductive conduct. When they choose a risky route over a safer one (perhaps, because it is more profitable, less risky to the mother, or more likely to result in conception), they threaten the welfare of future children.



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