domingo, 11 de marzo de 2018

What does it mean to be a genetic parent?

What does it mean to be a genetic parent?Bioedge

What does it mean to be a genetic parent?
In a world where assisted reproduction is becoming increasingly common, bioethicists are beginning to ask the question: “what counts as genetic parenthood?”.
It is tempting to think that genetic parenthood is about sharing half of one’s genes with another person. But this alone is not enough. Imagine a situation in which you had an identical twin, and your twin had a child. The child of your identical twin would share half of your genes. But would this make you their parent as well? Our intuitions tell us “no”.
In a new article in The Philosophical Quarterly, State University of New York philosopher Monika Pitrowska attempts to offer an account genetic parenthood that deals some of the complexities of the parent-offspring relationship. According to Pitrowska, there are three criteria that must be met for something to count as genetic parenthood: overlap, development, and persistence.
Readers may consult the article for a full development of the argument. Yet to provide a basic summary, Pitrowska argues that mere genetic similarity, or causal relationships between parents and children, are insufficient as a definition of parenthood. An vital feature of genetic parenthood is the passage of genetic material from one generation down through several successive generations. Pitrowska develops an definition that tracks this specific feature of parenthood.
As Pitrowska observes, the question of genetic parenthood is more than an esoteric, philosophical matter. While assisted reproduction has transformed society’s understanding of the family unit, our concern to know our genealogy remains. Furthermore, in a world where we are questioning whether mitochondrial replacement therapy creates three parent babies, or whether surrogates have a genetic link to the children they bear, it is important to achieve conceptual clarity.

A recent US documentary recounts the story of an Oregon couple who committed suicide together in April 2017. The couple, Charlie and Francie Emerick, had both been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. They felt that, after having been married and together for some sixty odd years, it was only fitting that they exit this world as a couple.

Talk of “fittingness” in the context of death draws our attention to a broader topic, namely, the aesthetics of death. Just as we seek beauty in life, so also do we seek beauty in death.

There is a certain beauty to ending the narrative arc of our lives with a “fitting” poetic flourish. And in the context of euthanasia, it seems that many cases are underpinned by a desire not just for a peaceful death, but a beautiful death.

In 2016, a 41-year-old Californian multi-media and performance artist, Betsy Davis, ended her life with lethal medication. Davis wanted her suicide to be a “final act” in her artistic career, and she organised an elaborate weekend of celebrations and performances before consuming the lethal dose on a canopy bed by a hillside.

I wonder if, in seeking a beautiful death, we should look the wisdom the ages, rather than following our own artistic intuitions. The 15th century Latin tract Ars Moriendi provides persons in extremis with guidance for a good death. It encourages readers to face death bravely, to avoid temptations to despair, impatience or pride, and to surround oneself with those loved ones who, in life, have brought joy to one’s soul.

I’m not sure that the authors of the text had assisted suicide in mind when they outlined the elements of the ars moriendi.

Deputy Editor

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Bioethicists are asking, "what counts as genetic parenthood?".
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