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The Perfect Baby: A Pragmatic Approach to Genetics Paperback – December 19, 1996

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Glenn McGee is a philosopher at the Center for Bioethics in Philadelphia, but The Perfect Baby is no dry or abstract tome. "Philosophical systems must be tested where the rubber meets the road," says McGee, and he discusses ethical issues in human reproduction with a focus on real people and real choices. McGee's approach is based on the pragmatism of American philosophers William James and John Dewey, brought up to date by looking at "the ideas that are in play in our actual discussions of parenthood and babies, about ideas like identity, perfection, enhancement, and illness." McGee concludes that "we must resist the tendency to explain away the 'felt' aspects of the problem": feelings have ethical reality.


A book for those perplexed by the philosophical and ethical conundrums of genetics in the 21st century. (CHOICE)

Well-informed, balanced, and quite well written. (Richard M. Zaner, author of Troubled Voices: Stories of Ethics and Illness)

He combines a rich body of clinical material with informed pragmatic critique. (Mary Briody Mahowald, University of Chicago)

A pioneering, landmark work in pragmatic bioethics. (John J. Stuhr, Head of the Department of Philosophy, Penn State University)

This captivating book offers balanced new insights for individual decisions and for public policy. (John Lachs, Vanderbilt University)

A welcome alternative to work that force fits the issues either to scholarly abstractions or to myths of popular culture. (Caroline Whitbeck, The WWW Ethics Center for Engineering & Science)

A provocative account of this emerging, cutting-edge issue that will greatly profit future commentators and policymakers. (John Robertson, School of Law, University of Texas)

A useful road map as we enter the complex territory of genetic medicine in the 21st century. (James M. Wilson, director, Institute for Human Gene Therapy, University of Pennsylvania)

A remarkably well-informed and sensitive exploration of the opportunities and challenges presented by the new science of genetics. (Jonathan D. Moreno, State University of New York, Brooklyn)

Extremely readable and provocative . . . succeeds at something that few scholars in Bioethics have even attempted: to speak in ordinary language and in a conversational voice about the nest of subtle issues that entangle new advances in human genetics. (Eric Juengst, Ph.D. Center for Biomedical Ethics, School of Medicine)

McGee is one of the most energetic and inquisitive writers in the emerging 'next generation' of bioethicists . . . His work is interesting, important, and has the kind of self-reflective courage we need to face these issues squarely. (Margaret P. Battin, University of Utah)

McGee's application of the pragmatic method to issues in bioethics is both timely and effective. McGee's excellent final chapters will give students of all levels a perspective that cannot be found in other books of the kind. (Teaching Philosophy)

McGee's book breathes all the virtues of a pioneering work. it puts the issue of human genetic engineering in a fresh perspective, draws the attention to many valuable points, and raises a number of important questions. (Cornelis de Waal, Newsletter of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy Newsletter Of The Society For The Advancement Of American)

McGee's well-written and intriguing new book adds little to the content . . . .he does offer a unique and much needed practical approach to the critical analysis of the relevant issues. (Timothy Caulfield, Universtiy of Alberta Phil Review, Vol. Xvii N0.. 4-6 Aug.-Dec. 97)

McGee's book is an excellent introduction to the issues and he provides especially good treatments of the nature/nurture debate and the relationship between genetics and allocation decisions. Many will find his views provocative. His work is breezy and fun to read. (L.M.P. Ethics, Jan. 1998)

So where do ordinary folk, faced with a life-or-death decision, get some useful information? This book might be a good starting ground. (Beverly Kelley, California Lutheran University Sunday, June 29, 1997)

The philosophical tradition of American pragmatism has had a fresh life in recent years. In McGee's hands it is richer, more suggestive . . . Not everyone will find The Perfect Baby acceptable, but McGee will give the opponents reason to pause. Weneed that kind of initiative, and McGee's book will provoke some useful, much needed debate. (Daniel Callahan, The Hastings Center)

Finally― a good book about genetics― that makes these fascinating issues understandable to the families who need to know. (N. P. R.'S Voices In The Family)

. . . useful to just about everyone who must grapple with the new genetics. (The Washington Times)

The book is appropriately directed to a diverse audience and makes refreshing use of plain language to address relevant issues present in the choices we must now make in everyday life. (Bruce C. Trafnell, Genetic Therapy, Inc. Dept. of Virology Nature Medicine, Vol. 3 No. 6)

McGee develops a very powerful line of reasoning about genetic enhancement. (Laurence B. McCullough The Philadelphia Inquirer)

[McGee sees] the real task as helping ordinary families "who are trying to decide about genetic tests" so he explains them with humor and understanding. This is an important book in the continuing exploration of bioethics! (Dave Kirby The Troy Citizen)

McGee's analysis leads, among other things, to some important proposals on health insurance policy and a probing, helpful discussion of genetic enhancement engineering. This is a lively and readable book, useful in both theological and philosophical discussions. (James M. Childs, Jr., Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio Religious Studies Review, Vol.24, No.2, April 1998)

McGee provides a highly readable and informative account of current and future uses of genetic technology. (Susanne Gibson, University of St. Martin, Lancaster Bioethics)

An excellent text with keen insights and salient overview of key issues. (Fr. David L. Danneker, Department of Philosophy, Elizabethtown College)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (December 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847683443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847683444
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,201,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Glenn E. McGee, Ph.D. has written about bioethics for two decades. Creator of the leading journal in the field, The American Journal of Bioethics, and its editor-in-chief from 1999-2012, he has held two endowed chairs and faculty positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Union University, and University of New Haven. He has authored more than 200 articles for medical, legal, business and scientific journals, such as Science, Nature Medicine, and JAMA. His best-known articles have been in the areas of compensation of research subjects, models for parenting and enhancement, a pragmatic theory of bioethics, the patenting and sale of biological materials, ethical issues in tissue and gene banks, and ethical issues in stem cell research. His books include Who Owns Life?, Pragmatic Bioethics, The Human Cloning Debate, The Perfect Baby, New York Times bestseller Beyond Genetics (William Morrow/HarperCollins), and most recently Bioethics for Beginners (2012).

Glenn received his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University and his B.A. at Baylor University, who named him Outstanding Young Alumnus in 2000 and one of its "top 150 graduates of all time" in 2008.

Dr. McGee has been quoted about his research, which focuses on the family, genetics and reproduction, in most newspapers, and he has been a guest on most U.S. national television and radio news programs, such as Today, Fresh Air, Oprah, Nightline, and ABC World News Tonight, and has co-authored with a number of clinical and scientific luminaries such as Dr. Ruth, Stanley Greenspan, and Ian Wilmut. He has been a commentator for MSNBC News, for whom he authored a column from 2000-2003, and he has authored a monthly column from 2005-2007 for The Scientist, the most widely read magazine for scientists, as well as a syndicated column from 2005-2007 in the Albany, New York Times-Union.

Dr. McGee has testified before the House and Senate and multiple committees of a number of states in the U.S. He has taught bioethics to incoming members of the U.S. Congress and taught workshops on bioethics for the Association of Chief Justices of the US Courts of Appeals. He served on the FDA Panel on Molecular and Genetic Devices and received a commendation for excellent service from the FDA in 2008. He was the American external evaluator of all genetics and policy programs for the United Kingdom's Economic and Social Research Council in 2007. In 2006 Dr. McGee organized "Bioethics and Politics," the first national conference to bring together conservative and liberal thinkers in biomedical ethics, hailed as "the most important bioethics conference in 25 years" by the then ASBH President. He has been elected to the boards of directors of several foundations and organizations including Planned Parenthood.

McGee's innovation in teaching and outreach in bioethics education is is widely recognized. The concentration in bioethics he started at Penn was hailed by the New York Times and by Harvard University Project Zero, specifically for his creating an undergraduate class in which students must submit fully articulate proposed legislation in bioethics to their home state government in order to receive an "A." In a joint effort led by Dr. McGee with Apple and Google, in 2006 he developed a successful online graduate program in bioethics using technologies such as Apple's iTunes University and bioethics.net, the first bioethics website (which he founded in 1994). Glenn has three sons, Ethan, Austin and Aidan.

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Top Customer Reviews

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A well written and provocative exploration of what the future may hold as the meaning of family continues to change.
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By A Customer on November 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book changed our minds about using BRCA-1 genetic testing. It is the best $11 we spent--about the same amount as a single prenatal vitamin! The history part is really interesting. We shared this book with our friends and it is being discussed at our church after the minister saw it discussed on C-SPAN. There really isn't much bad to say.
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By A Customer on April 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was a great way to get to know the people who work on genetics and new reproductive technologies. I read the book for my genetics class but I loved it anyway! It tells the history and the science and ethics, but I liked that it is so well written and so human.
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Format: Paperback
It is amazing to me that the author is so young, because he is an excellent and interesting speaker. I bought The Perfect Baby after I saw him speak at our Student Convocation. He was so inspirational that I decided to major in bioethics.
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