Cutting-edge medicine is perhaps most likely to be sought out by those with desperate need. Desperately ill people might be the first group of such people to come to mind. But what about people who are desperately driven to win in sports?
From Andrew Moseman on Discover’s “80 Beats” blog: Geneticists Are On the Lookout for the First Gene-Doping Athletes
We’re only a week away from the 2010 Winter Olympics opening in Vancouver, and the return of the games brings with it the return of crazy stories about how far world-class athletes will go to get even the tiniest edge, legal or illegal. In the journal Science this week, researchers led by geneticist Theodore Friedmann take the opportunity to warn about gene doping, the next looming crisis in cheating at high-stakes athletics….
This story brings up a range of ethical issues (not all of them unique to genetic technologies), including:
- use of experimental technologies on desperate patients;
- good sportsmanship;
- the perverse dynamics of an arms race, and what we can reasonably expect, ethically, from people involved in one;
- the lure of all things “genetic” — apparently it’s nearly cat-nip for people seeking powerful effects;
- the distinction between treatment and enhancement. That distinction that is surprisingly hard to define clearly, but it’s important to think about, since it divides 2 goals about which people tend to have very different ethical intuitions.