How bioethics can inform policy decisions about genetic enhancement

Robert Cook-Deegan, Kathleen N. Lohr, Julie Gage Palmer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Among its many functions, bioethics applies philosophy, law, history, social sciences, humanities, and religion to normative analyses of new biotechnologies. We show how explicit moral analysis, religious perspectives, and contributions from the humanities informed public policy decisions about the beginning of human DNA transfer experiments; we also examine the value that bioethics added to the policymaking process. We then turn to an emerging genetic technology that appears thorny through the bioethics lens: genetic memory enhancement. We describe current and potential contributions of bioethics to public policy in this arena. Finally, we contemplate how bioethics might contribute to similar policy-making for enhancement technologies in the future. We conclude that genetic interventions such as inserting or altering DNA to enhance memory or cognition—whether inherited or affecting only the person whose cells are genetically altered—will likely be introduced from the edges of medicine, and we call for broad bioethics conversations regarding genetic changes in memory and cognition. The previous chapter in this volume (“Religious Traditions and Genetic Enhancement”; Chapter 3) addresses genetic intervention, focusing particularly on its links to eugenics, and religious and moral perspectives on its acceptability. That chapter is a review of normative analyses, and we do not plow that ground again here. Instead we focus on how normative analysis informs policy, and we specifically examine the roles bioethics and religion have played—or failed to play—in making policy decisions about genetic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPhilosophy and Medicine
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages38
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePhilosophy and Medicine
ISSN (Print)0376-7418
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0080


  • Gene Therapy Trial
  • Genetic Enhancement
  • Genetic Intervention
  • Human Gene Therapy
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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