This series is so wonderful. I am not a poetry fan per se, but the artwork and retelling of these classic works makes them appealing, especially for f...moreThis series is so wonderful. I am not a poetry fan per se, but the artwork and retelling of these classic works makes them appealing, especially for fans of the works as collectors items. Ryan Price's illustrations are brilliant.
That said, I do feel that this book falls a bit short of Jabberwocky (from the same series), which deviated so far from the original purpose of the poem that it was entirely new. This one is along the same lines, but with less deviation. Regardless, in both cases the artwork offers a new - and much darker - interpretation of the poems, which I personally love. I look forward to reading more books from the series.(less)
This is a well-thought out and mostly balanced view of reproductive choices. Overall deals with most subjects sensitively, and while it certainly may...more This is a well-thought out and mostly balanced view of reproductive choices. Overall deals with most subjects sensitively, and while it certainly may offend some people’s sensibilities (i.e., those not liberal), it is a mostly thorough and logical analysis of procreative choices. The prose is accessible (although the type face is decidedly tiny).
It is, unfortunately, only a western look at the problem (although thankfully at the same time as I am sure none of us in the west are truly able to assess the different issues faced in the developing world), and (oddly) only looks at Canada and the United States. Certainly issues are different in Europe where populations are higher and potentially problematic in island nations like the UK, but there is no reason why she couldn’t have included Australia and New Zealand, and indeed many European and Asian countries. Perhaps as a Canadian she does not feel qualified to comment on the issues faced outside of North America. However, Australia would seem to be the most similar to Canada in terms of population:size ratio as well as values rather than the United States, which is decidedly more conservative, not to mention reproductive services are limited due to the nature of their healthcare system as well as different laws.
I do think this book is a valuable (necessary?) introduction to the topic, and hopefully exists at the very least to start people asking the hard questions even where I disagree with Overall, because there are some deficiencies (at least, there seem to be from my limited knowledge of bioethics and philosophy).
* As a caveat, I do hope that these deficiencies do not deter anyone from reading the book, because I think it is ultimately worthwhile and insightful.
Obviously as a book on bioethics taken from a purely philosophical viewpoint the use of improbable hypotheticals is useful for making various points. However, with the exception of the environmental implications of having children in the west, Overall fails to look at any hypothetical scenarios related to the offspring themselves. That is, would-be parents are thought to be morally justified in having a child if they can provide that child with better than adequate care so that their life will have more positives than negatives (or at least will be viewed as such), but she doesn’t consider the implications that having degenerate children may pose. Obviously nobody knows before reproducing (and usually for many years following) which children will contribute to society and which will leech off of it (many people do suppose they know, but they are mistaken and can only make statistically based estimates). But if we are looking at hypothetical cases involving non-existent mechanisms of ectogenesis, should we not consider the implications of having a child who is sociopathic even when that (currently) cannot be known? If whether or not having a child who will suffer is ethical is worth discussing, shouldn’t we also discuss having a child who may (and improbably will in at least a small way) cause others to suffer?
The question here is not whether or not to reproduce, but what parents are actually capable of dealing with. Because we cannot know what kind of children we may have, there should be a discussion of reproducing when you know that you have parental limitations. If you are not prepared to be the parent of an exceptionally difficult and potentially destructive child (as any child may be), should you consider reproduction? This question is never asked, and it should be. Overall does discuss adequate versus exceptional parenting, but this is only in the context of parenting “normal” offspring, which many people do not have.
Secondly, I found her discussion of impairment to be somewhat flawed. For instance, Overall’s discussion of the theoretical case of a woman with Tay-Sachs choosing to reproduce – apparently morally wrong – is problematic for numerous reasons. If someone with Tay-Sachs believes their life (however filled with pain) is worth living enough to perpetuate it through offspring, who are we without Tay-Sachs to say anything to the contrary? If I know that my child will suffer and die, does this make me obligated not to produce that child? There are too many unknowns. If you were to look in a crystal ball and see that your child will die from a brain tumour at the age of four that is diagnosed at age one (therefore suffering for more than half of their life), are you morally required to not have that child? Or are you morally required to do everything to make that child’s four years valuable to the child? The reality is, in four years there could be a medical breakthrough and your child may be spared, or that (since you know about the brain tumour) you could have the child screened and find it when it is still operable. The point is that knowing your child will suffer and die is not a reason to not reproduce, because we all suffer and we all die (a point Overall makes numerous times). Only a person who has suffered through Tay-Sachs themselves can rightly say whether a life of Tay-Sachs has inherent value or not, just as only a person who lives with HIV can choose to risk passing it onto their offspring. Overall is not qualified to make this judgment, because no sound philosophical argument can take into consideration human experience as a whole.
Additionally, what if a woman with Tay-Sachs were to become pregnant (that is, unlike in the above, not to have planned her pregnancy)? Is she morally obligated to abort her fetus to prevent it from suffering in the future? Does this not come into direct conflict with her own right to bodily autonomy should she prefer not to subject herself to an abortion?
On page 168, Overall’s discussion of infants born with impairments culminates into this: that we (as parents, or a society) may be happy with an infant’s impaired existence while simultaneously mourning the harm and difficulty their impairment has caused and will continue to cause. This is a disastrous allegation, and ableist despite her attempts to treat disability with sensitivity. It assumes, ipso facto, that being able is the desirable way to be, when in fact there is no evidence to support this fact. Many people with impairments or disability not only would not wish to be able-bodied, but acknowledge that their disability is fundamental to who they are. If interested, please read the following:
If you haven’t the time or inclination, what Jim Sinclair states in this brief view of autism is that being autistic is not a tragedy, but simply another way of being, and one that is inherently valuable in its own right. To deny this fact is to reject autistic people who would not exist outside of autism – they would be someone else entirely even if in a genetically identical body. Even my own disability has significantly altered my outlook and experience to the point where I would not be the same person without it. Should any of us be required to give back who we are in favour of some alternative unknown who may or may not be better just so that we will not be subjected to societal pity and/or resentment?
What these few paragraphs indicate is that (1) I am philosophically confounded; and (2) that choosing whether or not to reproduce has no easy answers. And despite my criticisms, I do think this book is a valuable tool when one does not know what questions to ask or is simply interested in the bioethics of reproduction from a female viewpoint. Even though you or I may disagree with Overall’s conclusions, the conclusion is not the point, it is the asking of the questions that is important. As Overall herself says, reproduction is not just a question of ethics or morals, but it is ultimately “nonrational” (if not irrational) and may not be entirely bound within an ethical framework.
Even when you boil the reproductive question down to the most basic ethical questions, there are invariably arguments that will lead you to whatever conclusion you prefer to come to. There is no easy “yes” or “no” answer to whether or not each of us as individuals should choose – at some point in our lives – to reproduce. But having an honest look at ones motivations for choosing to have one or more children is the least prospective parents should be required to do: not doing so is most certainly morally negligent, and we in the west live in a world where such negligence is no longer acceptable.
* This book is recommended for everyone, whether you have children or not, and whether or not you are capable of reproduction. This is a conversation everyone should be able to have, because we are all invested in the perpetuation of the human species. (less)