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Title: The ethics of enhancement of intellectual abilities in children : a risk of creating 'superhuman' disabled?
Author: Krutzinna, Jenny
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 6119
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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Human enhancement continues to be hotly debated by both 'professionals' and academics, and increasingly also by the general public. This is no surprise, given that the idea of making human beings better - individually and collectively - has existed for centuries. Parents appear to be especially receptive to new ways of improving the qualities of their offspring - first and foremost their cognitive abilities - in the hope of giving them the best life possible. At the same time, children as not-yet autonomous persons are vulnerable to the decisions made on their behalf. This dynamic has led to a long-running philosophical debate about the moral permissibility of paediatric enhancement. Unfortunately, this debate has somewhat stalled at the point of disagreement on general permissibility, with both sides strongly relying on the notion of well-being to support their respective positions. Rapid progress in the sciences, including the development of the new CRISPR-Cas9 technique, holds much promise for effective cognitive enhancement in children, and this makes proper ethical assessment an urgent matter. Arguing that enhancement is here to stay and that prohibition is not a feasible option in a globalised world, I suggest that the debate should instead focus on what cognitive enhancement in children is likely to mean for the welfare of children. Addressing the question of whether enhancement of intellectual abilities in children is likely to lead to the creation of 'superhuman' disabled children - that is, children with superior or even yet-unseen cognitive capacities but a disability in some other sense (medical, social or both) - I draw on evidence from various fields, including education, law, disability studies and sociology, to demonstrate that the positive effect of cognitive ability on individual well-being is frequently overestimated and can thus not serve as a moral justification for cognitive enhancement. Furthermore, the current legal environment with regard to children with higher intellectual abilities gives cause for concern about the well-being of future cognitively enhanced children and urges us to address prevailing shortcomings in educational provision before deliberately engaging in the creation of more cognitive potential. Suggesting that any moral judgment about cognitive enhancement should focus strongly on the ends pursued, I argue that the welfare of children is endangered not so much by the new possibilities and methods of enhancement as by the failure to fully appreciate children's need for the provision of appropriate opportunities to match their individual abilities.
Supervisor: Chadwick, Ruth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Special education needs ; Disability ; Intelligence ; Cognitive enhancement ; Well-being ; Welfare of the child