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New life sciences innovation and distributive justice
Rawlsian goods versus Senian capabilities

Papaioannou, T

Life Sciences, Society and Policy   9 (5)

May 2013

The successful decoding of human genome and subsequent advances in new life sciences innovation create technological presuppositions of a new possibility of justice i.e. the just distribution of both social (income, wealth, etc.) and natural (rationality, intelligence, etc.) goods. Although Rawlsians attempt to expand their theory to include this new possibility, they fail to provide plausible metrics of social justice in the genomics and post-genomics era. By contrast, Senians seem to succeed to do so through their index of basic capabilities. This paper explores what might be regarded as a Senian perspective of distributive justice in new life sciences innovation. The argument is that, by comparing freedoms (different functionings) instead of primary goods, the capability theory allows not only for the identification of injustices linked to natural lottery but also for their elimination through the use of new genomic technologies, including gene-based diagnostics, gene therapy, somatic cell engineering (SCE) and germ-line engineering (GLE). These innovative technologies seem to have the potential to reduce variability in natural goods and therefore enable individuals to convert social goods into well-being or welfare.