J Med Ethics 39:371 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100961
  • Commentary

Commentary on Singh: Not Robots: children's perspectives on authenticity, moral agency and stimulant drug treatments

  1. Steven Rose
  1. Correspondence to Professor Steven Rose, Department of Life Health and Chemical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK76AA, UK; s.p.r.rose{at}
  • Received 2 October 2012
  • Accepted 10 October 2012
  • Published Online First 9 November 2012

Singh's study of 150 UK and US children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and prescribed psychotropic medication (primarily Ritalin) concludes on the basis of interviews with the children that ‘stimulants improve their capacity for moral agency … an ability to meet normative expectations’.1 Reinterpreted in lay language, she finds that, when taking Ritalin, the children conform to the wishes and expectations of their parents and teachers. They get better grades at school and show less ‘oppositional-defiance’. This is not surprising as it is precisely what Ritalin is supposed to do. However, it begs a number of crucial questions. Might it not be that the failure of the child to conform to the expected norms in the non-medicated state is a legitimate expression of the child's own moral agency, rebelling against what he/she experiences as inappropriate …

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