Table Topics: “Optimizing the Body: From Health Protection to Genetic Embryo Modification” (Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty)
Based on her socio-empirical research, sociologist Dr. Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty examines professional discourses as well as the lived experiences and moralities of lay people in the context of selective Reproductive Technologies (e.g. prenatal diagnosis (PND) leading to selective abortions and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)). These technologies are meant to provide parents with reproductive choice and result in most cases of a detected embryonic/fetal anomaly in preventive abortion or in the avoidance of affected embryos transfer and implantation. Therefore, they are highly controversial and have given raise to ongoing ethical, academic, and public debates. The main objections against the implementation of such technologies take issue with the way in which this approach to human life reflects and constructs normative social boundaries and standards of health, determines what life is worth living, and perpetuates the stigma of and the intolerance towards disabilities.
The new developing technology of genetic embryo modification holds, on the one hand, the promise of ending diseases and suffering, as well as an extended life expectancy. On the other hand, however, it further increases socio-ethical concern over new forms of “designer babies” and “high-tech eugenics”, as well as questions regarding social diversity and inequality.
At the WeberWorldCafé, Rimon-Zarfaty will talk about the current state of selective reproductive technologies and how a possible shift towards genetic embryo modification inevitably carries implications not just for human health but also for social perceptions and human society, as a whole. She will discuss the possible influence of genetic modification on human diversity (also in terms of possible impact on the human gene pool), the possible effects on what we perceive as normal or healthy bodies, and possible implications in term of rejection of imperfect humans and prejudice against persons with disabilities, as well as questions of the commodification of the human body and social inequality.
Dr. Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty (Minerva Stiftung Post-doctoral Fellow at the Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, University Medical Center Göttingen) is a sociologist specializing in the field of sociology of medicine and bioethics. Her research mainly deals with the social, cultural and ethical issues related to medical technologies at the beginning of life, also in the context of lay moralities. She is primarily interested in concepts of responsibility, temporality, personhood and parenthood. Her current study focuses on concepts of temporality in the context of social egg-freezing.