Does Enhancement Entail Wastage of Medical Resources

The use of medical resources for mere enhancement purposes could be criticised as a waste of the scarce resources otherwise available, and originally intended for, therapy or prevention. The justifiability of such a position would not depend upon who pays for the (mis)application of such means. Hence, it is of no relevance that, according to our recommendations so far, it should always be the individual recipient of an enhancement, as opposed to the public health care system, who has to bear the immediate cost. Rather, the critique hints at the absolute limitation of medical resources. In other words, regardless of who bears the costs of a medical procedure, medical resources (including individual expertise) which are used up for one particular purpose are, consequently, unavailable for any other potential applica tion. Therefore, those resources deployed for enhancement purposes are unavailable for use for the purpose of treating serious, and even potentially life-threatening, medical conditions. There may not be a direct link between the use of a specific set of resources in one area and their lack in another functional context. Nevertheless, if we take the system of healthcare as a whole, a certain level of interdependence is inevitable.

This critique of enhancement procedures is based on two assumptions. First, that the entirety of medical resources in a given society is always, or at least normally, subject to a more or less exhaustive demand, or claim upon them, by that society's members. That is to say, available resources are, at any given time, being utilised at nearly full capacity. The scarcity of medical resources notwithstanding, this does not, however, appear to be a very plausible assumption. Second, a resource-squandering effect would be proven if the widespread use of medical resources for purposes of mental enhancements were actually to compromise significantly the availability of similar procedures for the purpose of medical treatment. In that case, their application for mere enhancements would be, to some extent, parasitic on their primary purpose as treatment. This could also be criticised as violating principles of distributive justice. After all, not only the application, but also the production, of medical resources is a huge and permanent drain on a society's financial resources.

We consider the critique based on the second assumption plausible to some extent, provided it turns out to rest on a sound empirical basis. Whether or not this is the case is quite unclear at present. (That type of resource-squandering effect could be just as well attested to the present, and widely accepted, practice of cosmetic surgery.) This is again reason enough to raise a moral warning flag, accompanied by an admonition to observe the various social effects of such practices. It does not, however, provide sufficient grounds, at the current time at least, for an outright legal prohibition of possible applications of brain interventions for mental enhancement.

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Brain Blaster

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