Ethics of enhancement technology
Start date: 01 Jul 2009,
End date: 30 Jun 2012
The main objective of this ETHENTECH project is to take substantially further forward both the ethical evaluation and public discussion of two important emerging fields of micro- and nanobiotechnology which pose very significant ethical and societal issues of public concern: neurological implants and the potential for human functional enhancement. Neural implants are a major new class of medical devices, which create an interface between nerve tissues and nano- or micro-scale probes. The aim is to enable a patient’s nervous system to communicate with new devices that replace or supplement a malfunctioning organ, for example to restore hearing or eyesight or to treat degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. Human functional enhancement technology refers to a wide range of converging technologies which have the potential to enable significant modification of the systems of the human body, beyond what might be seen as medical purposes. The subjects of the ETHENTECH project address some of the most far-reaching fields among new and emerging technologies today - in terms of their potential social impact and the challenges these will pose to ethical issues and values of European citizens and societies. The project’s two fields of implant and human enhancement technologies both lack ethical frameworks and European and international guidelines. This absence reflects the emerging and complex nature of both areas. They also represent cases where issues of dual use are a significant and further complicating factor. While several EC and other projects have given useful overviews of the ethical terrain, it is clear that there is now a pressing need to engage in more depth with particular issues in order to focus ethical frameworks and guidelines around particular issues.
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