Who needs ‘moral bioenhancement’ most?


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“Many supporters of ’moral bioenhancement’ (MBE), the use of biomedical interventions for moral improvement, have been criticised for having unrealistic proposals.” So begins a student essay by Gregory Mark Conan, of George Fox University (Oregon) in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Whether or not he successfully argues that MBE is realistic, his proposals are certainly thought-provoking.

Moral bioenhancement has been spruiked by some bioethicists for several years now. Despairing of humanity’s tendency to well and truly screw things up, some have suggested that solutions like doctoring the water supply with harmony-inducing drugs might be the only way to save the world from Ragnarök.

Conan’s ambitions are more modest. He suggests that interventions like transcranial direct current stimulation over the medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and supplementation with lithium and omega-3 could help some types of people. Murderers and rapists would be amongst the first candidates. “For example,” he writes,  “a violent offender could choose therapeutic lithium treatment in exchange for a reduced sentence.”

More novel is his suggestion that moral bioenhancement should be mandatory for police and politicians.

As public servants, both are already held to a higher moral standard than the general population. They are all expected to set aside personal gain and act primarily for the benefit of their communities, even at great personal sacrifice. Their occupations usually require high prosociality and self-control for making difficult moral decisions with significant ramifications for others’ welfare. The fact that they often fail to meet these high standards only makes it more critical for them to undergo MBE …

Considering how many evils come from the orders of some political leader(s), perhaps the best possible use of MBE would be to enhance political leaders. Power corrupts, as most people know, by reducing morally good traits. So perhaps MBE of those traits could be required for some political leaders to protect against power’s corrupting influence, helping to solve that fundamental problem of politics …

Nominations are hereby open in the comment box below for politicians who would benefit from moral bioenhancement….

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge




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