Comments on “Sterilization, Privacy, and the Value of Reproduction”

  • Michael D. Buckner
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Ethics book series (CIBES)


Joseph Ellin has written a provocative paper on the matter of procreation and sterilization. Although he concludes that involuntary sterilization violates a basic right to privacy, not many will be satisfied with his argument that this is unrelated to a right to procreate, and that the latter interest in procreation is not an “important” interest to individuals. As he notes, having robbed procreation of both the strong status of a right, and the weaker status of an important interest, the road is cleared for an unfavorable comparison with truly important and most likely public interests. Although the cleanup tasks are left for another occasion, Ellin himself assumes that from the perspective of public policy procreation is quite important, and thus as a matter of public policy, it will require legislation and control. The remaining safeguard against control is based upon the fact that effecting control requires an “intrusion into the body.” Therefore it is a matter of violating that sense of privacy which protects the use of our body. He seems to think that to the degree that actual physical intrusion is not necessary, to that degree privacy will not be violated. Therefore, since there is no other reason for banning the effecting of control through sterilization, such sterilization would be legitimate.


Impossible World Important Interest Cleanup Task Spiritual Significance Drunken Driving 
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Copyright information

© The HUMANA Press Inc. 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael D. Buckner
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy and Medicine ProgramNew York UniversityNewYorkUSA

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