9 March 2012
Bioethics Associated with Enhancement There are multiple ethical dilemmas associated with using “enhancements” for reasons other than therapy. Our society feels that some enhancements are perfectly acceptable in day-to-day life, while others are not. The real concern about the ethics of enhancement is where the line should be drawn. There are multiple pros and cons associated with each form of enhancement and society is required to weigh both the good and the bad side of each to decide what is acceptable. If a form of enhancement can possibly do something to improve the quality of life of a person then it should be done, but it should not be used in an athletic setting, nor should it be used in its current state as genetic enhancements for those wealthy enough to afford it unless it is something that insurance will cover and the possible consequences are continually studied. There are common forms of enhancement that many people see or use on a day-to-day basis. For example, millions of people use a common form of mental enhancement: drinking coffee, which is essentially a drug delivery system for caffeine. Smoking cigarettes is similar in this regard; it delivers nicotine to the central nervous system. For cosmetic procedures, the use of botulinum toxin type A for facial enhancement is the most common cosmetic procedure in the United States (Kiuru & Crystal, 2008, p. 330). Some other widely accepted procedures include the use of drugs and hair follicle transplantation for hair loss and surgical procedures to reverse the appearance of aging or unwanted body fat. Today, society seems to accept these forms of augmentation without question. Despite the acceptance of common physical and mental enhancements, our culture draws the line at some improvements. This line is typically drawn either because the cons of the augmentation outweigh the pros or the enhancement itself is not acceptable. One example of this is the use of erythropoietin. While many find it unacceptable to use erythropoietin for increased endurance in sports, most of society finds its use perfectly acceptable for treatment of chronic anemia (Kiuru & Crystal, 2008, p. 330). Another example is the use of growth hormone. Growth hormone can be used to become taller or stronger for social, cosmetic, or athletic purposes but it is considered inappropriate to use them for this purpose. Society, however, finds it perfectly acceptable as a treatment for short stature due to a growth hormone deficiency or Turner’s syndrome (Kiuru & Crystal, 2008, p. 330) The problem with that approach to the ethical side of enhancement can be explained with the use of an anecdote by Nils Holtug (2011), an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen:
Johnny is a short 11-year-old boy with documented growth hormone (GH) deﬁciency resulting from a brain tumor. His parents are of average height. His predicted adult height without GH treatment is approximately 160 cm (5 feet 3 inches).
Billy is a short 11-year-old boy with normal GH secretion according to current testing methods. However, his parents are extremely short, and he has a predicted adult height of 160 cm (5 feet 3 inches).
As it currently stands, Johnny would be given growth hormone as a treatment, but if Billy is given growth hormone it would be considered an enhancement because Billy’s height is due to his genetics and not a disease. Everything else being equal, Johnny and Billy are “equal competitors" (Holtug 141) because they have the exact same disadvantage if neither of them receive growth hormones. Considering this, they – again if everything else is equal – have equal opportunities. Because both cases are so similar in terms of equality and opportunity, “one would expect the normal function model to treat these two cases alike” (Holtug 141). Additionally, many of these treatments have an effect on athletic ability. For example, vascular