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Ties that bind? The moral and political significance of genetic relatedness and assisted reproduction

12 May 2023, 9:30 – 18:00

Ante Room, 1st Floor, Somerset House East Wing, Strand Campus, London


Dr Giulia Cavaliere, King’s College London

Dr Seppe Segers, Maastricht University


One of the key reasons to develop, implement and provide access to assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) is that they enable users to have offspring to whom they are genetically related. The moral standing and the political significance of the desire to have genetically related offspring, and of enabling access to ARTs to fulfil it, has been the object of disagreement in the moral and political philosophy literature on procreation. Some have argued that we have prima facie reasons to fulfil people’s desire for genetic relatedness through ARTs provision as having and rearing children is part of what some people would regard as necessary to leading a flourishing life. Others have questioned both the value of genetic relatedness and the role of states in facilitating the fulfilment of the desire to have genetically related children. In addition, the proliferation of ever new ARTs has given rise to a related conceptual discussion about the meaning of genetic parenthood, which has moral and political significance. These developments enable the creation of children that—despite inheriting their genetic material from one of more human beings—will do so in ways that are qualitatively and quantitatively different from standard forms of ‘natural’ reproduction.

This workshop will focuses on the following conceptual, political and moral questions: under what conditions can someone be considered a child’s genetic parent? What is the moral and political significance of genetic ties? Does the desire to have genetically related children justify the development and implementation of assisted reproductive technologies? How does this desire normatively differ from other desires regarding future offspring? Do states have an interest in funding access to ARTs? Can adoption be considered a morally acceptable alternative for people who could not or would not want to procreate naturally?

This event is sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy:


9:30 – 10:00 Registration and coffee

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome and introduction (of each participant)

10:15 – 12:00 SESSION 1

  • Professor Heidi Mertes (Ghent University)

Why bother defining genetic parenthood

  • Professor Jonathan Ives (University of Bristol)

Suffering prioritisation, or prioritising suffering? Arguments for and against NHS funded fertility services

12:15 – 13:15 Lunch

13:15 – 15:15 SESSION 2

  • Professor Rosamund Scott (King’s College London)

New Reproductive Technologies and Genetic Relatedness: Desires, Projects and Alternatives

  • Dr César Palacios-González (University of Oxford)

Adopting: A new position on the duty to adopt

15:15 – 15:45 Coffee break

15:45 – 17:00 SESSION 3

  • Dr Emily McTernan (University College London) & Dr Liam Shields (University of Manchester)

The Meaning of Infertility

17:00 – 18:00 Wine reception

If you are interested in attending this workshop, please email:


At this event

Giulia Cavaliere

Lecturer in Ethics

Event details

Ante Rooom
Somerset House East Wing
Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS