Ethical issues in human enhancement

In J. Ryberg, T. Petersen & C. Wolf (eds.), New Waves in Applied Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan. 120--152 (2007)
Abstract
Human enhancement has emerged in recent years as a blossoming topic in applied ethics. With continuing advances in science and technology, people are beginning to realize that some of the basic parameters of the human condition might be changed in the future. One important way in which the human condition could be changed is through the enhancement of basic human capacities. If this becomes feasible within the lifespan of many people alive today, then it is important now to consider the normative questions raised by such prospects. The answers to these questions might not only help us be better prepared when technology catches up with imagination, but they may be relevant to many decisions we make today, such as decisions about how much funding to give to various kinds of research. Enhancement is typically contraposed to therapy. In broad terms, therapy aims to fix something that has gone wrong, by curing specific diseases or injuries, while enhancement interventions aim to improve the state of an organism beyond its normal healthy state. However, the distinction between therapy and enhancement is problematic, for several reasons. First, we may note that the therapy-enhancement dichotomy does not map onto any corresponding dichotomy between standard-contemporary-medicine and medicineas-it-could-be-practised-in-the-future. Standard contemporary medicine includes many practices that do not aim to cure diseases or injuries. It includes, for example, preventive medicine, palliative care, obstetrics, sports medicine, plastic surgery, contraceptive devices, fertility treatments, cosmetic dental procedures, and much else. At the same time, many enhancement interventions occur outside of the medical framework. Office workers enhance their performance by drinking coffee. Make-up and grooming are used to enhance appearance. Exercise, meditation, fish oil, and St John’s Wort are used to enhance mood. Second, it is unclear how to classify interventions that reduce the probability of disease and death..
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