Accounting for the Moral Significance of Technology: Revisiting the Case of Non-Medical Sex Selection

Original Research

Open Access. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry volume 16, p75–85 (2019) Published online: 27 December 2018

Olya Kudina

Abstract: This article explores the moral significance of technology, reviewing a microfluidic chip for sperm sorting and its use for non-medical sex selection. I explore how a specific material setting of this new iteration of pre-pregnancy sex selection technology—with a promised low cost, non-invasive nature and possibility to use at home—fosters new and exacerbates existing ethical concerns. I compare this new technology with the existing sex selection methods of sperm sorting and Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis. Current ethical and political debates on emerging technologies predominantly focus on the quantifiable risk-and-benefit logic that invites an unequivocal “either-or” decision on their future and misses the contextual ethical impact of technology. The article aims to deepen the discussion on sex selection and supplement it with the analysis of the new technology’s ethical potential to alter human practices, perceptions and the evaluative concepts with which we approach it. I suggest that the technological mediation approach (Verbeek, 2005, 2011) can be useful to ethically contextualize technologies and highlight the value of such considerations for the informed deliberation regarding their use, design and governance.

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