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The Price of Perfection: Individualism and Society in the Era of Biomedical Enhancement

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Overview

Few would question the necessity of artificial limbs for amputees. But what of surgery to lengthen the legs of children who are merely shorter than average? Hardly anyone would challenge the decision to prescribe Aricept to people with dementia. But is it acceptable to give the same medication to airline pilots seeking sharper mental focus on long-haul flights?

Humans have engaged in biological self-improvement since long before recorded history, from the impotence-curing wild lotus brew of the ancient Egyptians to the herbal energy drink favored by early Olympians. Now biomedical enhancements are pushing the boundaries of possibility and acceptability. Where do we draw the line? How do we know the true ramifications of pioneering medicine? What price are we willing to pay for perfection?

Maxwell J. Mehlman’s provocative examination of these issues speaks to fundamental questions of what it means to be human. He finds public officials ill-equipped to handle the ethical, scientific, and public policy quandaries of biomedical enhancement. Instead of engaging difficult questions of morality, access, fairness, and freedom, elected officials have crafted toothless and counterproductive laws and regulations.

Mehlman outlines policy options to boost the societal benefits and minimize the risks from these technologies. In the process, he urges the public to face the ethical issues surrounding biomedical enhancement, lest our quest for perfection compromise our very humanity.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine - Arthur Caplan
In his highly readable and especially timely new book, The Price of Perfection, Mehlman makes it clear that he is not at all persuaded that the ethical response to the availability of performance-enhancing drugs in sports—or elsewhere in society, for that matter—is to ban them and then spend a lot of effort testing for those who use them anyway.
International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics - Anita Silvers
Bioethicists, as well as policy makers and the public, must think more often and more deeply about science’s rapidly growing ability to improve human functioning. But what is present in The Price of Perfection, and sufficiently inspiring, is a well-balanced and well-documented look at how we now are positioned (at least in the United States) to control this process, and what some of the pros and cons of enlarging control, or alternatively loosening it, might be.
International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics
Bioethicists, as well as policy makers and the public, must think more often and more deeply about science’s rapidly growing ability to improve human functioning. But what is present in The Price of Perfection, and sufficiently inspiring, is a well-balanced and well-documented look at how we now are positioned (at least in the United States) to control this process, and what some of the pros and cons of enlarging control, or alternatively loosening it, might be.

— Anita Silvers

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
In his highly readable and especially timely new book, The Price of Perfection, Mehlman makes it clear that he is not at all persuaded that the ethical response to the availability of performance-enhancing drugs in sports—or elsewhere in society, for that matter—is to ban them and then spend a lot of effort testing for those who use them anyway.

— Arthur Caplan

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801892639
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/21/2009
  • Edition description: 20
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,007,831
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Maxwell J. Mehlman is the Petersilge Professor of Law and director of the Law-Medicine Center in the School of Law, Case Western Reserve University, where he is also a professor of bioethics in the School of Medicine and the associate director for public policy in the Center for Genetics Research, Ethics, and Law. He is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of several books on medical ethics and genetics, including Wondergenes; The Encyclopedia of Ethical, Legal, and Policy Issues in Biotechnology; and Access to the Genome.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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