Ethical framework for human enhancement

Until recently, human enhancement technologies were mostly science fiction. Today, implants, drugs and prosthetics are available to enhance human abilities. Despite intense discussions in society and academia, few efforts have been successful in establishing ethical guidance for the use and development of these technologies. Could now be a good time to develop such guidelines? SIENNA researchers are trying to find out. Curious? Download our report!


Human enhancement technologies are being used and developed in many fields and domains. Developing ethical guidelines will be challenging. SIENNA researchers have outlined several options for how this process could be approached. For example, would self-contained general ethical guidelines be best, or would field- or domain-specific guidelines be better? These questions are not easy to answer, but doing so will help develop fit-for-purpose ethical guidance.

One major hurdle to this process is the fact that human enhancement is still very much in its infancy. For this reason, it’s possible that now might not be the time for guideline development. Even if that were the case, there are several practical issues that need to be managed sooner rather than later. In the report, SIENNA researchers suggest that research ethics committees can already play a crucial role. Using the reference document in the SIENNA report, research ethics committees might be able to inform researchers about the ethical issues that could arise in human enhancement development and encourage those same researchers to think about these issues in their ethics self-assessments.

As a starting point for developing ethical guidance for human enhancement, SIENNA researchers present three case studies on the topics of antidepressants, dementia treatment, and genetics. These might help to bring some clarity about what kinds of issues are likely to appear when developing ethical guidance for human enhancement technologies.

Michael Kühler, Nils-Frederic Wagner, & Philip Brey. (2020). SIENNA D3.7: Proposal for an ethical framework for human enhancement (Version V1.0). Zenodo. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.4275579

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Last modified: 2022-11-07