ABSTRACT This paper identifies human enhancement as one of the most significant areas of bioethical interest in the last twenty years. It discusses in more detail one area, namely moral enhancement, which is generating significant contemporary interest. The author argues that so far from being susceptible to new forms of high tech manipulation, either genetic, chemical, surgical or neurological, the only reliable methods of moral enhancement, either now or for the foreseeable future, are either those that have been in human and animal use for millennia, namely socialization, education and parental supervision or those high tech methods that are general in their application. By that is meant those forms of cognitive enhancement that operate across a wide range of cognitive abilities and do not target specifically ‘ethical’ capacities. The paper analyses the work of some of the leading contemporary advocates of moral enhancement and finds that in so far as they identify moral qualities or moral emotions for enhancement they have little prospect of success.
According to what we call the Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PB), couples who decide to have a child have a significant moral reason to select the child who, given his or her genetic endowment, can be expected to enjoy the most well-being. In the first part of this paper, we introduce PB, explain its content, grounds, and implications, and defend it against various objections. In the second part, we argue that PB is superior to competing principles of procreative selection such as that of procreative autonomy. In the third part of the paper, we consider the relation between PB and disability. We develop a revisionary account of disability, in which disability is a species of instrumental badness that is context- and person-relative. Although PB instructs us to aim to reduce disability in future children whenever possible, it does not privilege the normal. What matters is not whether future children meet certain biological or statistical norms, but what level of well-being they can be expected to have.
The doctor‐patient relationship is built on an implicit covenant of trust, yet it was not until the post‐World War Two era that respect for patient autonomy emerged as an article of mainstream medical ethics. Unlike their medical forebears, physicians today are expected to furnish patients with adequate information about diagnoses, prognoses and treatments. Against these dicta there has been ongoing debate over whether placebos pose a threat to patient autonomy. A key premise underlying medical ethics discussion is the notion that the placebo effect necessitates patient deception. Indeed, the American Medical Association guidelines imply that placebo treatment necessary entails a form of deception. As a consequence of this assumption, the fulcrum of debate on the use of placebo treatment has hinged on whether that deception is ever justified. Recently performed experiments with open‐label transparently prescribed placebos have begun to challenge the notion that deception is necessary in eliciting the placebo effect and such effects necessarily involve a binary distinction between autonomy and beneficence. In this article we focus on the content of disclosures in distinctive open‐label, transparently disclosed placebo studies and inquire whether they might be said to invoke deception in clinical contexts, and if so, whether the deception is unethical. We find that open placebos may be said to involve equivocation over how placebos work. However, drawing on surveys of patient attitudes we suggest that this equivocation appears to be acceptable to patients. We conclude that open placebos fulfil current American Medical Association guidelines for placebo use, and propose future research directions for harnessing the placebo effect ethically.
ABSTRACT We respond to a number of objections raised by John Harris in this journal to our argument that we should pursue genetic and other biological means of morally enhancing human beings (moral bioenhancement). We claim that human beings now have at their disposal means of wiping out life on Earth and that traditional methods of moral education are probably insufficient to achieve the moral enhancement required to ensure that this will not happen. Hence, we argue, moral bioenhancement should be sought and applied. We argue that cognitive enhancement and technological progress raise acute problems because it is easier to harm than to benefit. We address objections to this argument. We also respond to objections that moral bioenhancement: (1) interferes with freedom; (2) cannot be made to target immoral dispositions precisely; (3) is redundant, since cognitive enhancement by itself suffices.
In an article in this journal, Christopher Cowley argues that we have ‘misunderstood the special nature of medicine, and have misunderstood the motivations of the conscientious objectors’. We have not. It is Cowley who has misunderstood the role of personal values in the profession of medicine. We argue that there should be better protections for patients from doctors' personal values and there should be more severe restrictions on the right to conscientious objection, particularly in relation to assisted dying. We argue that eligible patients could be guaranteed access to medical services that are subject to conscientious objections by: (1) removing a right to conscientious objection; (2) selecting candidates into relevant medical specialities or general practice who do not have objections; (3) demonopolizing the provision of these services away from the medical profession.
In this article, I argue that there is no compelling therapeutic ‘need’ for human nuclear genome transfer (so‐called mitochondrial replacement) to prevent mitochondrial diseases caused by mtDNA mutations. At most there is a strong interest in (i.e. ‘want’ for) this technology on the part of some women and couples at risk of having children with mitochondrial disease, and perhaps also a ‘want’ on the part of some researchers who see the technology as a useful precedent – one that provides them with ‘a quiet way station’ in which to refine the micromanipulations techniques essential for other human germline interventions and human cloning. In advance of this argument, I review basic information about mitochondrial disease and novel genetic strategies to prevent the transmission of mutated mitochondria. Next, I address common features of contemporary debates and discussions about so‐called mitochondrial replacement. First, I contest the cliché that science‐and‐(bio)technology is fast outpacing ethics. Second, I dispute the accuracy of the term ‘mitochondrial replacement’. Third, I provide a sustained critique of the purported ‘need’ for genetically‐related children. In closing, I call into question the mainly liberal defense of human nuclear genome transfer. I suggest an alternative frame of reference that pays particular attention to issues of social justice. I conclude that our limited resources (time, talent, human eggs, and money) should be carefully expended in pursuit of the common good, which does not include pandering to acquired desires (i.e., wants).
Prenatal screening for foetal abnormalities such as Down's syndrome differs from other forms of population screening in that the usual aim of achieving health gains through treatment or prevention does not seem to apply. This type of screening leads to no other options but the choice between continuing or terminating the pregnancy and can only be morally justified if its aim is to provide meaningful options for reproductive choice to pregnant women and their partners. However, this aim should not be understood as maximizing reproductive choice per se. Only if understood as allowing prospective parents to avoid suffering related to living with (a child with) serious disorders and handicaps can prenatal screening be a publicly or collectively funded programme. The alternative of moving prenatal testing outside the healthcare system into the private sector is problematic, as it makes these tests accessible only to those who can afford to pay for it. New developments in prenatal screening will have to be assessed in terms of whether and to what extent they either contribute to or undermine the stated aim of providing meaningful options for reproductive choice. In the light of this criterion, this article discusses the introduction of the new non‐invasive prenatal test (NIPT), the tendency to widen the scope of follow‐up testing, as well as the possible future scenarios of genome‐wide screening and ‘prenatal personalised medicine’. The article ends with recommendations for further debate, research and analysis.
Mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs) have the potential to allow prospective parents who are at risk of passing on debilitating or even life‐threatening mitochondrial disorders to have healthy children to whom they are genetically related. Ethical concerns have however been raised about these techniques. This article focuses on one aspect of the ethical debate, the question of whether there is any moral difference between the two types of MRT proposed: Pronuclear Transfer (PNT) and Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST). It examines how questions of identity impact on the ethical evaluation of each technique and argues that there is an important difference between the two. PNT, it is argued, is a form of therapy based on embryo modification while MST is, instead, an instance of selective reproduction. The article's main ethical conclusion is that, in some circumstances, there is a stronger obligation to use PNT than MST.
ABSTRACT The ongoing ‘enhancement’ debate pits critics of new self‐shaping technologies against enthusiasts. One important thread of that debate concerns medicalization, the process whereby ‘non‐medical’ problems become framed as ‘medical’ problems. In this paper I consider the charge of medicalization, which critics often level at new forms of technological self‐shaping, and explain how that charge can illuminate – and obfuscate. Then, more briefly, I examine the charge of pharmacological Calvinism, which enthusiasts, in their support of technological self‐shaping, often level at critics. And I suggest how that charge, too, can illuminate and obfuscate. Exploring the broad charge of medicalization and the narrower counter charge of pharmacological Calvinism leads me to conclude that, as satisfying as it can be to level one of those charges at our intellectual opponents, and as tempting as it is to lie down and rest with our favorite insight, we need to gather the energy to have a conversation about the difference between good and bad forms of medicalization. Specifically, I suggest that if we consider the ‘medicalization of love,’ we can see why critics of and enthusiasts about technological self‐shaping should want (and in some cases have already begun) to distinguish between good and bad forms of such medicalization.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing public health problems humanity faces. Research into new classes of antibiotics and new kinds of treatments – including risky experimental treatments such as phage therapy and vaccines – is an important part of improving our ability to treat infectious diseases. In order to aid this research, we will argue that we should permit researchers to pay people any amount of money to compensate for the risks of participating in clinical trials, including ‘challenge studies’ that involve deliberately infecting patients. We think that standard worries about paying for participation in risky research are reducible to concerns that can be addressed with the right screening mechanisms.
The classification of techniques used in mitochondrial donation, including their role as purported germ‐line gene therapies, is far from clear. These techniques exhibit characteristics typical of a variety of classifications that have been used in both scientific and bioethics scholarship. This raises two connected questions, which we address in this paper: (i) how should we classify mitochondrial donation techniques?; and (ii) what ethical implications surround such a classification? First, we outline how methods of genetic intervention, such as germ‐line gene therapy, are typically defined or classified. We then consider whether techniques of mitochondrial donation fit into these, whether they might do so with some refinement of these categories, or whether they require some other approach to classification. To answer the second question, we discuss the relationship between classification and several key ethical issues arising from mitochondrial donation. We conclude that the properties characteristic of mitochondrial inheritance mean that most mitochondrial donation techniques belong to a new sub‐class of genetic modification, which we call ‘conditionally inheritable genomic modification’ (CIGM).