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Defending human enhancement technologies: unveiling normativity
  1. Inmaculada de Melo-Martín
  1. Correspondence to Inmaculada de Melo-Martín, Division of Medical Ethics, Department of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College, 402 E 67th Street, New York, NY 10065, USA; imd2001{at}


Recent advances in biotechnologies have led to speculations about enhancing human beings. Many of the moral arguments presented to defend human enhancement technologies have been limited to discussions of their risks and benefits. The author argues that in so far as ethical arguments focus primarily on risks and benefits of human enhancement technologies, these arguments will be insufficient to provide a robust defence of these technologies. This is so because the belief that an assessment of risks and benefits is a sufficient ethical evaluation of these technologies incorrectly presupposes that risk assessments do not involve value judgements. Second, it presupposes a reductionist conception of ethics as merely a risk management instrument. Each of these assumptions separates ethical evaluation from discussion and appraisal of ends and means and thus leaves important—indeed, essential—ethical considerations out of view. Once these problematic assumptions are rejected, it becomes clear that an adequate defence of human enhancement technologies requires more than a simple balance of their risks and benefits.

  • Enhancement
  • ethics
  • human enhancement technologies
  • philosophical ethics
  • risk–benefit evaluations
  • technology/risk assessment

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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