Oscar Pistorius’s recent attempt, as a double amputee, to compete for a place on the South African able-bodied Olympic team and the controversy that accompanied it foregrounds a profound societal ambivalence to what can be called “human enhancement” technologies both within sport and more generally. Advanced human enhancement technologies such as “smart” prosthetics, targeted neuro-cognitive agents, nanotechnology and genetic engineering are forcing a fundamental re-visioning or re-imagining of the boundaries of the human being with profound ethical implications. This paper samples the ethical discourse within four enhancement disciplines – prosthetics, neuro-cognition, genomics and nanotechnology – and attempts to situate shared ethical concerns within the four principles of biomedical ethics to determine if they can serve as a pan-disciplinary ethical framework. The conclusion is that while these principles do offer a mechanism for applying shared ethical concerns to specific instances of human enhancement technology, they do little to address the broader cultural drivers of enhancement technology: the dominance of engineering as a shared metaphor and the tremendous power of commercial incentive. The result may be that attempts to situate enhancement technologies ethically may already be too little, too late.
|Keywords:||Ethics, Human Enhancement, Biomedical Ethics, Biomedical Technology, Biomedical Engineering, Athletics, Prosthetics|
PhD Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada