Selected Issues > Enhancement

enhancement imageAn enhancement is a nontherapeutic intervention intended to improve or extend a normal human trait. Cosmetic surgery to achieve a younger, more attractive appearance is perhaps the most obvious example. However, with the rapid growth of medical and biotechnology advances, many other possibilities are on the horizon. Would you take a drug to feel happier? Would you undergo gene therapy to run faster? Would you use a neuroimplant to boost your memory? Should you? Should anyone? What are the boundaries between enhancement and normalcy?

From the Hastings Center

2012 March-April

Toward a Wider Index

By Gregory E. Kaebnick
We should be on the lookout for other kinds of manuscripts. With the second article in this issue, however, I guess we conform to our pattern. 


Reprogenetics: A Blueprint for Meaningful Moral Debate and Responsible Public Policy

Lead Investigators Lori Knowles and Erik Parens

Bioethics Briefing Book

Enhancing Humans

By Mark S. Frankel and Cristina J. Kapustij

Special Report

Is Better Always Good? The Enhancement Project

An increasing number of biotechnologies offer ways of "enhancing" people. Examples are cosmetic surgery, gene therapies, performance drugs, and psychopharmacological agents such as antidepressants. This supplement tries to clear the conceptual ground for assessing such enhancements. It considers a range

2009 March-April

The Parental Investment Factor and the Child’s Right to an Open Future

By Dena S. Davis
Parents have dreams for their children, sometimes quite specific and narrow. Musical families may assume that their children will choose an instrument early and devote so many hours to practice that other activities and even friendships are severely constrained. Society tolerates such dreams quite well. But should we also encourage access to genetic and reproductive techniques that allow for the creation of “babies by design,” or what I will term directed procreation? And does it matter if these techniques require a large or small investment of parental time, money, and energy? The argument for permitting directed procreation is grounded in the respect Western culture gives to reproductive liberty. However, this respect, almost reverence, for autonomy in reproduction also grounds reasons for limiting directed procreation.

2005 May-June

Authenticity and Ambivalence: Toward Understanding the Enhancement Debate

Erik Parens The differences between critics and proponents of enhancement technologies are easily overblown. Both sides of this debate share the moral ideal of being “authentic” to oneself. They differ in how they prefer to understand authenticity,

Bioethics Forum

Are Parents Driven to Design Their Babies?

Jacob Moses


Surgically Shaping Children: Technology, Ethics and the Pursuit of Normality

Edited by Erik Parens At a time when medical technologies make it ever easier to enhance our minds and bodies, a debate has arisen about whether such efforts promote a

Hastings Center Report

The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision-Making

By S. Matthew Liao, Julian Savulescu, and Mark Sheehan
Ashley was born with a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or roll over. In 2004, her parents and the doctors at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital devised what they called the “Ashley Treatment”—high-dose estrogen therapy to stunt her growth, removal of her uterus via hysterectomy to prevent menstrual discomfort, and removal of her breast buds to limit the growth of her breasts. Were these treatments in Ashley’s best interests? Do they treat her as a person with dignity and respect, and were they likely to make her life go better?


Thomas H. Murray on sports doping

Bioethics Briefs: Doping in Sports

Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, argues that, while the task is difficult, sports need to draw a line between accepted performance enhancing technologies and forms of doping that should be banned.

 American Association for the Advancement of Science, Good, Better, Best: The Human Quest for Enhancement

Sarah Glazer, Enhancement: A Cross Section of Contemporary Ethical Debate About Altering the Human Body (Garrison, NY: The Hastings Center, 2006).

Additional Readings

 Lori P. Knowles and Gregory E. Kaebnick (eds.), Reprogenetics: Law, Policy, and Ethical Issues (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

 N. Agar, Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement(MIT Press, 2010)

 N. Agar, Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement (Blackwell, 2004)

A. Buchanan et al., From Chance to Choice: Genetics & Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

C. Elliot, Better than Well (New York: Norton, 2004)

J. Glover, Choosing Children: Genes, Disability and Design (Oxford University Press, 2006)

S.S. Hall, Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys – and the Men they Become (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

J. Harris, Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People (Princeton University Press, 2007).

J. Hughes, Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future (Westview Press, 2004)

B. McKibben, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Henry Holt, 2003)

E. Parens, “Authenticity and Ambivalence: Toward Understanding the Enhancement Debate,Hastings Center Report 35, no. 3 (2005): 34-41.

M. Sandel,The Case Against Perfection(Harvard University Press, 2007)