The Moral Significance of the Therapy –
Enhancement Distinction in Human
Genetics by Resnick
Resnick’s thesis: we should make a distinction between genetic therapy and genetic enhancement
(the distinction doesn’t mark a firm moral boundary between moral and immoral genetic
Genetic therapy and genetic enhancement and health: two approaches to health and disease:
descriptive and value- laden.
Descriptive: normal is typical and anything that does not fall under the species-typical traits is
Genetic therapy should not be considered a threat to ‘normality’ but genetic enhancement
performed on healthy people, should be.
But the descriptive approach can’t tell us whether one or the other is moral or immoral.
The value-laden approach: our understanding of health and disease is based on moral, cultural
and social norms.
Under this approach, genetic therapy is morally good because it helps us fight disease which is
But what about enhancement?
Resnick: the answer depends on the scope of our definitions of health and disease.
If we take them to mean that ll members of society should be healthy, and any deviation from this
norm is considered disease, then, genetic enhancement is inherently wrong.
This definition – too broad; doesn’t leave room for normal deviation and freedom of choice
But if we accept normal deviations, then genetic enhancement is not inherently wrong and is
acceptable as long as it doesn’t violate other moral norms such as non-malfeasance, autonomy,
What about the goals of medicine?
Main goals: prevention of disease and promotion of health and well-being
We endorse immunization which is an enhancement of our immune system, so why doesn’t we
endorse genetic enhancement?
What about humanness?
Many fear genetic enhancement because they think it will alter out human form (George Annas).
How is our human from characterized?
It’s not easy to define what a human being is (remember abortion debate).
Then, why is it wrong to change whatever the human form is?
Resnick: most moral theories, with the exception