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From assistive to enhancing technology: should the treatment-enhancement distinction apply to future assistive and augmenting technologies?
  1. Francesca Minerva1,
  2. Alberto Giubilini2
  1. 1Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Universiteit Gent, Gent, Belgium
  2. 2Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Francesca Minerva, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, University of Ghent, St.-Pietersnieuwstraat 49, Ghent 9000, Belgium; Francesca.Minerva{at}


The treatment-enhancement distinction is often used to delineate acceptable and unacceptable medical interventions. It is likely that future assistive and augmenting technologies will also soon develop to a level that they might be considered to provide users, in particular those with disabilities, with abilities that go beyond natural human limits, and become in effect an enhancing technology. In this paper, we describe how this process might take place, and discuss the moral implications of such developments. We argue that such developments are morally acceptable and indeed desirable.

  • enhancement
  • disability
  • autonomy

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  • Contributors Both authors gave substantial contribution to the conception and design of this work. FM wrote the first draft and addressed the comments of the reviewers. AG revised the various drafts.

  • Funding This work was supported by the FWO, Research Foundation Flanders, with a grant awarded to Francesca Minerva.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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