Canadian bioethicist asks, why have children?

Michael Cook

Is it good to have children? Most people would think so, but there is a range of views amongst utilitarian bioethicists. Rebecca Bennett, from the University of Manchester, believes that having children is just another irrational experience like taking recreational drugs or dancing. “In most cases we choose to bring to birth children on the basis of unquantifiable and unpredictable ideas of what they will bring to our lives,” she says.

Matti Häyry, a well-known Finnish bioethicist working in the UK, believes that it is both irrational and immoral because the child might encounter suffering in the course of its life, and “it is morally wrong to cause avoidable suffering to other people”.

The latest contribution to this debate comes from a Canadian feminist philosopher, Christine Overall. She published a book in February which is currently making a splash in bioethics circles, “Why Have Children?” Dr Overall is delighted to have two children of her own. But she believes that the reasons most people have them are mistaken.

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