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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The New Normal: How the definition of disease impacts enhancement

By Ray Purcell
The Neuroethics Blog
Originally posted July 24, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Why does the definition of disease matter? Enhancement is typically defined relative to normal abilities. Anjan Chatterjee of the University of Pennsylvania suggested that “Therapy is treating disease, whereas enhancement is improving “normal” abilities. Most people would probably agree that therapy is desirable. By contrast, enhancing normal abilities gives pause to many.” However, many neuroethicists have wrestled with clearly defining enhancement. The director of Emory’s Center for Ethics, Paul Root Wolpe argued (2002) that the enhancement debate centers on the ability of substances or therapeutics to directly affect the brain in ways that are not necessary to restore health and, certainly, to date the cognitive enhancement debate has focused primarily on pharmaceuticals, many of which are approved to treat disorders but can have effects on healthy individuals as well. Perhaps the best examples of this are methylphenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil (Provigil) which are prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy respectively, but are increasingly being used by students and professionals to boost cognitive performance at school and in the workplace.