Autonomy and Responsibility in Reproductive Genetics


The principle of respecting individual autonomy has traditionally been the most powerful of the four conventional principles of Western bioethics (the others being beneficence, benevolence and justice). It is rarely trumped by other ethical considerations such as an individual's personal responsibility, collective duties or even by the utilitarian maximization of the overall happiness or utility of a society. The new biotechnology has set the concept of autonomy in a new context challenging our traditional views on rights, responsibilities and humanity as a whole.

Key concepts

  • The concept of autonomy is one of the main conventional principles in bioethics.

  • The new scientific developments challenge our traditional views on autonomy, rights and responsibilities.

  • The concept of humanity is challenged by the new biotechnology.

  • Bioethics studies provide normative guidelines which sometimes appear value neutral.

  • Negative and positive rights are both central in policy considerations related to the development and use of new biotechnology.

Keywords: autonomy; responsibility; reproductive genetics; rights; duties


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Further Reading

Burley J (ed.) (1999) The Genetic Revolution and Human Rights. The Oxford Amnesty Lectures. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Childress J and Beauchamp T (1979) Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 4th edn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Pence G (1998) Who is Afraid of Human Cloning? Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wolf S (1996) Feminism and Bioethics. Beyond Reproduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Hellsten, Sirkku K(Sep 2009) Autonomy and Responsibility in Reproductive Genetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005898.pub2]