The limits of personal autonomy: reproductive rights as case study for a research into the conditions of a fundamental principle of law
Scientific developments within medically assisted procreation generate more and more possibilities for prospective parents. One of these new techniques is pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which enables the screening of embryos, not only for genetic defects, but also other traits, like gender or eye colour. The perfectibility of man slowly becomes apossible reality in this way.
The central question of this research is whether the principle of autonomy can form an appropriate normative framework to handle these new situations and whether or not the law can or should determine how to deal with the perfectibility of man.
Does the principle of autonomy allow to take into account the different interests at stake in matters of selective reproduction? In these case, autonomous choices not only entail consequences for the individual, but also for a possible new life. Therefore, the question becomes whether autonomy as a normative framework can properly take into account the interests of the prospective parents, the future child and also society in general since these matters raise central ethical questions in how we approach the human body and human reproduction.
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This research employs three types of sources: the case law of the European Court of Human Rights concerning autonomy and medically assisted procreation; literature on the foundations of autonomy within the law (and also some philosophical theoriesconcerning autonomy and the ethical dimensions of medically assisted procreation and PGD) and finally the medical practice based on interviews with doctors and fertility experts.