The development of human genetics raises a wide range of important ethical questions for us all. The interpersonal dimension of genetic information in particular means that genetics also poses important challenges to the idea of patient-centredness and autonomy in medicine. How ought practical ethical decisions about the new genetics be made given that we appear, moreover, no longer to be able to appeal to unquestioned traditions and widely shared communitarian values? This paper argues that any coherent ethical approach to these questions must be able both to uphold the moral status of the individual and at the same time recognise the communitarian, interpersonal dimensions both of the world in which we live and of personal autonomy itself. The paper then goes on to propose an approach to the resolution of the ethical questions raised by the use of the new genetics in reproductive choice through the development of a coherent and principled process of public reason and justification oriented towards the support and development of personal autonomy.
Key Words: Deliberation, autonomy • genetics • reproduction • ethics