Distributive Justice and Genetics


What will the demands of distributive justice be in the post‐genetic revolutionary world? Will genetic inheritance be regarded as socially distributed goods? This may seem a more reasonable position to assert as biotechnology progresses further toward human genetic manipulation. Advances in human genetics raise a number of unique considerations for theories of justice, ranging from the realisation of egalitarian ideals and the therapy/enhancement distinction to the scope and limits of reproductive freedom. As new empirical discoveries are made concerning the environmental and natural determinants of human welfare, theories of justice must re‐conceptualise what the demands of justice are and how society can fairly distribute the natural and social goods which influence the life prospects of humans.

Key Concepts:

  • Aging is the progressive loss of function accompanied by decreasing fertility and increasing mortality with advancing age.

  • Distributive justice is concerned with what constitutes a fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation.

  • Luck egalitarianism is the view which maintains that inequalities that are the result of factors beyond a person's control, such as inequalities in natural endowments, are unjust.

  • The Priority View maintains that it is morally more important to benefit the people who are worse off.

  • Procreative liberty is freedom in activities and choices related to procreation.

  • The Sufficiency View maintains that what is morally important is for everyone to have enough.

Keywords: distributive justice; equality; genes; John Rawls; natural lottery of life; reproductive freedom


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Farrelly, Colin(Apr 2012) Distributive Justice and Genetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005889.pub2]