Knowledge, Risk, and the Right to Reproduce

A Limiting Principle
  • Joseph F. Fletcher


I have a question to raise and an answer to offer. My answer has been anticipated by Lawrence Ulrich of the University of Dayton. In 1976 he said, in a paper that I regard as a superb model for the ethical position I myself take, “The thesis which I wish to adopt is this: Reproductive rights are not absolute and those who are at risk for passing on clearly identifiable, severely deleterious genes and debilitating genetic disease should not be allowed to exercise their reproductive prerogative.”1


Biomedical Ethic Eminent Domain Deleterious Gene Tort Liability Wrongful Life 
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References and Notes

  1. 1.
    Ulrich, L. P., Reproductive rights and genetic disease, in: Biomedical Ethics and the Law ( J. H. Humber and R. F. Almeder, eds.), p. 351, Plenum Press, New York (1976).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See my two volumes, The Ethics of Genetic Control, Doubleday, New York (1974) and Humanhood: Essays in Biomedical Ethics, Prometheus Press, Buffalo (1979).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Humanhood, pp. 17, 87, 117.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 64 S. Ct. 438, 88 L. Ed. 645 (1944).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Golding, M. P., The concept of human rights: A historical sketch, in: Bioethics and Human Rights (E. Bandman and B. Bandman, eds.), p. 44, Little Brown, Boston (1978).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hare, R. M., Abortion and the golden rule, Philos. Public Affairs 4: 210 (1975).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Tedeschi, G., On tort liability for “wrongful life,” Israel L. Rev. 1: 513 (1966).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Haering, B., It’s wrong to knowingly beget defective children, U.S. Catholic February: 14 (1976).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Shaw, M. W., Genetically defective children: Emerging legal considerations, Am. J. L. Med. 3: 333 (1977).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph F. Fletcher
    • 1
  1. 1.School of MedicineUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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