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Dream of the Perfect Child

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Overview

Every parent wants a healthy, normal child. Science and technology have now made this increasingly possible. But progress comes with a price. This richly informative account shows how the human striving for perfection has influenced the practice of reproductive medicine. Tracing its roots from Enlightenment thought through the biological discoveries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Joan Rothschild shows how the dream of human perfection masks a darker motivation to eliminate all that does not meet its standards. She 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. The result has been support for the status quo. To combat this tendency, Rothschild draws upon counter-voices from medicine and feminist ethics, as well as from pregnant women and people with disabilities. She proposes an informed ethical approach for evaluating the use of prenatal testing, genetic intervention, and other reproductive technologies that is case-based and procreative.
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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

Introduction : beautifully perfect : the technological dream 1
Pt. 1 Origins : enlightenment, evolutionary, and Eugenic discourses
1 The perfectibility of man 13
2 The "perfect race" 29
3 Reformed Eugenics and medical genetics 52
Pt. 2 Framing the discourse of the perfect child
4 The tools 71
5 The doctors : on the trail of the defective fetus 93
6 The parents : only the best and the brightest 111
7 Discourses of the imperfect 132
Pt. 3 Counter-discourses
8 Bioethics discourse and reproductive practice 157
9 Sites of resistance 188
10 Transforming the dream of the perfect child 214
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