Dream of the Perfect Child

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Overview

"Others have addressed the societal implications of contemplating ‘the perfect child’ but no one has written about it so poignantly, so compellingly, and so beautifully.... The best discussion of bioethics and reproductive practices I’ve seen."
—Carole Browner, University of California, Los Angeles

"Science and technology, medical professionals, and parents meet in the doctor’s office. This privatized setting is the site for individual decisions: whether to test or not, whether to keep a pregnancy or terminate it, and for which diagnosed ‘defect.’ Each decision becomes another judgment as to which conditions, and which children, are acceptable or not. As they aggregate over time,
individual decisions add up to a selection process, marking the imperfect, those who may be dispensed with, while certifying those worthy to be born. This process constitutes the discourse of the perfect child." —from the Introduction

Every parent wants a healthy, normal child, and scientific and technological advances have now made this increasingly possible to achieve. But progress comes with a price. Tracing its roots from Enlightenment thought through the biological discoveries of the 19th and 20th centuries, Joan Rothschild shows how the dream of human perfectibility masks a darker motivation to eliminate all that does not meet its increasingly heightened standards.

Joan Rothschild points to the thousands of decisions about prenatal testing that are made each day in the doctor’s office, the context in which they occur, and how they add up to the discourse of the perfect—and imperfect—child. She argues that the mainstream bioethics community has been ineffective in raising appropriate questions, resulting in support for the status quo. Drawing on counter-voices from medicine and feminist ethics, as well as from pregnant women and people with disabilities, The Dream of the Perfect Child reevaluates the uses of genetics and prenatal testing.
Ultimately, the goal is to change reproductive medical practice and thereby transform the dream.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Technology and Culture

"... should be embraced for the intelligence and depth it brings to the dialogue over reproductive genetics. Rothschild's amply documented historical overview, coupled with her keen observations of the role of feminism and bioethics in the burgeoning practice of reproductive medicine, commends her work to any interested observer of technology and culture." —Technology and Culture

From the Publisher

"... should be embraced for the intelligence and depth it brings to the dialogue over reproductive genetics. Rothschild's amply documented historical overview, coupled with her keen observations of the role of feminism and bioethics in the burgeoning practice of reproductive medicine, commends her work to any interested observer of technology and culture." —Technology and Culture

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253217608
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Series: Bioethics and the Humanities Series
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Rothschild is professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and research associate at the Center for Human Environments, The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is author of many publications, including Machina Ex Dea: Feminist Perspectives on Technology. She lives in New
York City.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents
Preface and
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Beautifully Perfect: The Technological Dream
Part I.
Origins: Enlightenment, Evolutionary, and Eugenic Discourses
1. The Perfectibility of
Man
2. The "Perfect Race"
3. Reformed Eugenics and Medical Genetics
Part
II. Framing the Discourse of the Perfect Child
4. The Tools
5. The Doctors: On the
Trail of the Defective Fetus
6. The Parents: Only the Best and the Brightest
7.
Discourses of the Imperfect
Part III. Counter-Discourses
8. Bioethics
Discourse and Reproductive Practice
9. Sites of Resistance
10. Transforming the
Dream of the Perfect Child
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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