What is the sufficientarian precautionary principle?

Bioethics 33 (9):1083-1084 (2019)
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In their recent article, Koplin, Gyngell and Savulescu (2019) assess the viability of the precautionary principle as a decision-making tool to determine whether and under what circumstances germline gene editing should proceed. While their survey of different forms of the precautionary principle is illuminating, the most novel contribution is a new account of the precautionary principle, what they dub the Sufficientarian Precautionary Principle (SPP). SPP is meant to avoid several problems with existing accounts, while comporting with at least some of the intuitive force behind the general idea of the precautionary principle. However, as it is only one subsection of a larger paper, SPP is not fully worked out. In this brief response, I will flesh out some problems with SPP as a decision-making tool – particularly that there is a lack of adequate normative justification for adopting it. While this does not constitute a decisive refutation of the approach, SPP needs considerable refinement and clarification before it can be considered viable for use in decision-making.

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G. Owen Schaefer
National University of Singapore


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