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Procreation machines: Ectogenesis as reproductive enhancement, proper medicine or a step towards posthumanism?


Eichinger, Johanna; Eichinger, Tobias (2020). Procreation machines: Ectogenesis as reproductive enhancement, proper medicine or a step towards posthumanism? Bioethics, 34(4):385-391.

Abstract

Full ectogenesis as the complete externalization of human reproduction by bypassing the bodily processes of gestation and childbirth can be considered the culmination of genetic and reproductive technologies. Despite its still being a hypothetical scenario, it has been discussed for decades as the ultimate means to liberate women from their reproductive tasks in society and hence finally end fundamental gender injustices generally. In the debate about the application of artificial wombs to achieve gender equality, one aspect is barely mentioned but is of crucial relevance from a medical‐ethical perspective: whether and how could full ectogenesis be justified as a proper use of medicine? After characterizing the technology as a special form of human enhancement and as an extension of medical practice that goes beyond the traditional field of medicine, this paper critically assesses the theoretical possibilities of legitimizing this extension. We identify two ways of justification: either one argues that ectogenesis fulfils a proper goal of medicine (a justification we call pathologization), or one argues that the application of ectogenesis achieves a non‐medical goal (which we call medicalization). Because it is important from a medical‐ethical point of view to avoid an inappropriate instrumentalization or misuse of medicine and thus an undue medicalization of non‐medical problems, a set of necessary conditions has to be met. It is doubtful whether full ectogenesis for non‐medical purposes could fulfil these conditions. Rather, its comprehensive usage could be seen as a revolutionary modification of what it means to be human.

Abstract

Full ectogenesis as the complete externalization of human reproduction by bypassing the bodily processes of gestation and childbirth can be considered the culmination of genetic and reproductive technologies. Despite its still being a hypothetical scenario, it has been discussed for decades as the ultimate means to liberate women from their reproductive tasks in society and hence finally end fundamental gender injustices generally. In the debate about the application of artificial wombs to achieve gender equality, one aspect is barely mentioned but is of crucial relevance from a medical‐ethical perspective: whether and how could full ectogenesis be justified as a proper use of medicine? After characterizing the technology as a special form of human enhancement and as an extension of medical practice that goes beyond the traditional field of medicine, this paper critically assesses the theoretical possibilities of legitimizing this extension. We identify two ways of justification: either one argues that ectogenesis fulfils a proper goal of medicine (a justification we call pathologization), or one argues that the application of ectogenesis achieves a non‐medical goal (which we call medicalization). Because it is important from a medical‐ethical point of view to avoid an inappropriate instrumentalization or misuse of medicine and thus an undue medicalization of non‐medical problems, a set of necessary conditions has to be met. It is doubtful whether full ectogenesis for non‐medical purposes could fulfil these conditions. Rather, its comprehensive usage could be seen as a revolutionary modification of what it means to be human.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Health (social science)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Health Sciences > Health Policy
Uncontrolled Keywords:Philosophy, Health Policy, Health(social science)
Language:English
Date:1 May 2020
Deposited On:10 Feb 2021 12:51
Last Modified:11 Feb 2021 21:00
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0269-9702
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/bioe.12708
PubMed ID:31943287

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