Pros & Cons of Eugenics

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Eugenics can provide valuable protection against hereditary diseases.
Eugenics can provide valuable protection against hereditary diseases. (Image: Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Eugenics, which began in the 1880s as a concept of selective breeding by Sir Francis Galton, grew to encompass other disciplines and offer genetic screening and manipulation that included trait selection, gender choice and disease resistance. Opponents suggest that the science of eugenics does more than help parents protect their unborn children; instead, they say that it has harmful effects on people’s perceptions and fuels racial disparity.

Disease Screening

Modern eugenics allows physicians to screen for as many as 400 hereditary conditions, giving parents an accurate view of their unborn child’s future medical needs and the ability to confront those needs proactively once the child has been born. The ability to diagnose and eliminate potential conditions is still too advanced for modern science, but the ability to proactively confront conditions gives parents a chance to prepare themselves and let their pediatricians know what to expect regarding their child's future health.

Pre-Implantation Diagnosis

The ability to diagnose genetic disorders in samples before implantation allows women to select male donor samples that do not contain negative genetic consequences. Male samples found to contain genetic markers associated with hereditary conditions like Down syndrome, inherited colon cancer and inherited breast cancer can be eliminated. The advantage is a comprehensive protection for the child regarding hereditary conditions passed down by the biological father. The child is still susceptible to inherited genetic conditions from the mother; however, this eliminates half of the potential genetic inheritors from passing along genetic illnesses.

Gender Control

While the ability to control a child’s gender is considered an advantage of the eugenics science, this ability forces a consideration for the motivation of the science. Ethicists contend that gender selection as a form of family gender variety -- that is, selecting a second child’s gender that is the opposite from their first child’s -- can prevent pre-birth stereotyping. In many countries including China and India, there is a cultural perception of superiority for the male over the female, which could result in the use of eugenics as a form of gender bias.

Civil Rights

During the years leading up to World War II, the Nazi party began a program of forced sterilization, attempting to control racial population growth through eugenics. While modern eugenics scientists oppose leader Adolf Hitler's actions, such measures demonstrate the potential misuse of eugenics when applied to a social agenda and a willingness to violate civil rights. Eugenics opponents fear that eugenics could be used for similar purposes in other countries, providing a medical means of racial cleansing or oppression.

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