Some very basic facts of human life are:
- people have no control over whether or not they become alive;
- once alive they strive to stay alive;
- they have a strong and instinctive drive to reproduce;
- they all eventually die.
Why are these facts ethically important?
Human beings, as organisms, are subject to these facts of life, but uniquely in the living world, we are also able to rationalise and to moralise. We can readily understand that the basic instinct for life is present in other people too, and appreciate that we have a moral duty to protect that instinct in them. This has been termed the presumption in favour of life.
Reproduction is the single most distinguishing characteristic of life. It is the driving force of evolution, which itself is responsible for the diversity of plant and animal species on Earth.
We humans are living organisms and these forces act on us just as any other species with which we share the Earth. We feel the urge to reproduce at a very powerful biological level at various times in our lives. It is not surprising therefore, that over the course of history, all aspects of human reproduction have been the subjects of intense moral and ethical debate.
Recently, however, technical advances have developed faster than people have had time to discuss the moral implications. Stories about surrogate mothers, designer babies, older parents, embryo mix-ups appear very frequently in the news media, raising new ethical dilemmas.
- What is the presumption in favour of life?
- Why is reproduction such an ethically sensitive characteristic of life?