Commentary on Boyd

- Masahiro Morioka
CIAS, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan
International Network for Life Studies

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 12 (2002), 171.
Ann Lewis Boyd's paper gives keen insight into the topics of human suffering, responsibility, and the meaning of life. She writes, "A child born with no known genetic defects can die suddenly without known cause. His death is tragic, unexpected, but his limited life can be very important to his parents. Are we to suggest that his life is not worth living because it was short, or his death caused much grief and suffering for his parents? No ." And she concludes that pain and suffering play an important role in the drama of life.

Of course, we are apt to avoid experiencing pain and/or suffering, but this is not the point. The point is how we should evaluate technologies that show us the way to systematically avoid our future pains and sufferings. In other words, the problem is whether we should totally accept these technologies that might rob us of "the drama of life" the essential element of the meaning of our life. We have not had such technology yet, but recent reproductive technologies, for example, prenatal diagnosis, selection of embryo, and germ line gene therapy, seem to aim for this goal. You may think this kind of reasoning is senseless and somewhat funny, but I believe this is one of the fundamental philosophical problems of our age.

She also talks about the idea, (which was presented in a paper by Eliot Marshall,) that parents who have born the pain and suffering of a child with a genetic disease resist any public resistance to mandate universal screening programs. However, in our society, parents who had a child with Down's syndrome sometimes resist prenatal diagnosis when they have their second baby. One of the reasons is that they think prenatal diagnosis for the second child means the denial of the first child who was born with disability. From the viewpoint of human relationships, their decision is worth considering even if technological progress seems to provide us infinite "freedom" and "happiness."

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