On Justifications for Coercive Genetic Control

  • Thomas L. Beauchamp


Good laws function to safeguard individual and societal rights and liberties. But the law has two sides. By ensuring liberty to one set of persons, the law may restrict the liberty of others. A law by its very function is coercive because it places a limit on what was formerly a free exercise or action. It is often said that we trade some liberties either for the insurance of other liberties or for some form of protection by the state. The acceptability of these liberty-limiting laws ultimately depends upon the adequacy of the justification offered for them; and when an adequate justification is not forthcoming, the law can easily become an instrument of oppression. In recent years a number of proposals by doctors, moral philosophers, and legislators have been offered which focus on what we ought to do legislatively in the near future to control various health and population problems by genetic engineering. In this paper I test the adequacy of some of the more sweeping of these endorsements of coercive genetic intervention by considering the justifications offered for them.


Psychological Control Genetic Intervention Harm Principle Moral Courage Retarded Person 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas L. Beauchamp

There are no affiliations available

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