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January 20, 1989

The Ethics of Genetic Control: Ending Reproductive Roulette

Author Affiliations

Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health

Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health

JAMA. 1989;261(3):453-454. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420030127050

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Moral philosopher Joseph Fletcher has always been 15 to 20 years ahead of his time in exploring the ethical questions raised by modern medicine. His 1954 Morals and Medicine, for example, set the agenda for medical ethics well into the 1970s. And this 1988 rerelease of his 1974 Ethics of Genetic Control remains as relevant today as it was then. Fletcher says in his new introduction that "Reading journals and the more popular media, I find that people are saying the same things and asking the same questions over and over." This is a useful observation, and anyone involved in medical ethics and policy-making in medicine during the past 25 years will recognize the recurrence of fundamental questions.

Most medical ethicists claim not to provide answers, but only to clarify the questions and the values at stake. Fletcher has always eschewed this approach and has consistently tried to provide answers