Enhancement

Here’s a commentary by Gregory Stock, a UCLA geneticist who insists that our medical future includes not just fixing sick people but enhancing well people too. His comment is about the approval by the FDA of using growth hormone to increase the growth of children whose bodies already produce normal growth hormone. Initially the hormone was approved only for kids condemned to be small because their bodies produced growth hormone way below normal, a condition considered an illness. So the outcome is to enhance people with natural biologic function but who’d just be short. His point is that, as time goes by, we will include more and more marginally deficient conditions as treatable by therapy, i.e., we’ll enhance those below the norm. Actually, what is “normal” and what is “deficient” is a matter of definitions that shift over time.

While ethicists may demur, I personally agree with Stock and believe enhancement is part of the American way. We are a culture that believes it is our right to rise above our initial circumstances. Birth is not destiny. If we can get ahead it is our right, our choice even if we do it at our risk. “Extreme makeovers” are as American as apple pie. Prediction: somewhere between 2020 and 2030 medicine will shift to at least 50% of effort doing things that we’d consider “enhancement” today.

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