Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

Book Review: From Bench to Bedside, to Track and Field

27 April 2015

By Dr Ross Cloney

Appeared in BioNews 799

From Bench to Bedside, to Track and Field: The Context of Enhancement and Its Ethical Relevance

By Dr Silvia Camporesi

Published by University of California Medical Humanities Press

ISBN-10: 098898654X, ISBN-13: 978-0988986541

Buy this book from Amazon UK


The image of eugenics often portrayed in the media is reminiscent of the horrors of the early to middle 20th century. Legions of identical blond-haired, blue-eyed ubermenschen, backed by an authoritarian state with no room for diversity or difference. In 'From Bench to Bedside, to Track and Field: the context of enhancement and its ethical relevance', Silvia Camporesi demolishes that image. Instead she argues that we are entering a period of democratic eugenics, albeit fraught with its own ethical considerations.

Guiding us through the mass sterilisations of the classical eugenics period that began in the late 19th century and ended with the horrors of the Third Reich, Camporesi explores the historical context of the quest for human enhancement and the backlash against it. Drawing on areas ranging from current genetic technology to social constructions of disability, Camporesi then builds the argument for an idea I found intriguing. Long dead is the authoritarian idea of eugenics, she claims. Instead we are now entering the age of 'eligogenics', defined by individual and family choice over enhancement.

I particularly enjoyed the philosophical exploration of the questions surrounding the enhancement of children. For example, is it unethical to select for perfect pitch but acceptable to force a child into piano lessons? And when it comes to disability, what is or is not considered a defect in need of correcting? Here she offers the particularly striking example of deaf parents using PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) to select for an embryo carrying 'genes for deafness'. Camporesi carefully lays out the arguments that our concept of disability is socially created and references the vibrancy of deaf culture.

Also caught up in the midst of these debates are regulatory agencies like the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The HFEA is mentioned several times, walking the delicate line between the unregulated market-driven American model and the restrictive approach of many continental European countries. Ultimately, Camporesi comes down against the rampant use of genetic diagnostic choice with the elegant argument that choices made by the parents could end up limiting the future freedoms of the child.

The second half of the book is focused on human enhancement in a sports context. Sport, argues Camporesi, is torn between an ethos of the human body excelling in its natural glory, and a practical culture that already embraces enhancement through extreme training and illicit pharmaceuticals. Where does the burden of responsibility to ensure sport is true to its nature fall - on the atheletes, the trainers, the sponsors or the anti-doping regulatory agencies? Here she used the infamous examples of Lance Armstrong, who after admitting to doping now faces lawsuits over his 'false advertising'.

Camporesi makes the argument for a strong deliberative democracy and adopting the precautionary principle from ecological management - the burden of responsibility being placed on the organisation and not the individual. She makes a strong case for a greater role of the philosopher to help shape this debate. Although sport is a useful microcosm of society, where the pressure to go above the human norm is strong, this attention does make it feel almost like two separate books. The focus shifts from society-level problems and solutions in the first half to ones that focus on a small subset of those issues in the second.

'From Bench to Bedside, to Track and Field' explores the shifting idea of eugenics and, while I found the track and field aspect took up too much space despite its narrow focus, the book primes the reader for an exploration of our emerging world of self-chosen enhancement.


Buy From Bench to Bedside, to Track and Field: The Context of Enhancement and Its Ethical Relevance from Amazon UK.

SOURCES & REFERENCES

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

12 September 2016 - by Dr Silvia Camporesi and Giulia Cavaliere 
By focusing all our attention on the ethics of human–animal hybrids, we may be overlooking non-technical solutions to the short supply of human organs for transplantation...
31 May 2016 - by Kriss Fearon 
'Produce' is an intriguing and believable portrayal of how parents might act when faced with the chance to decide what genes to give to their future child...
18 May 2015 - by Marco Narajos 
'The Olympic Journey: Born Winners' sets out to answer the question 'Are winners born or made?' In the process, it offers a look into the science of what it takes to become a winner and addresses the consequences of genetic testing in the future of the sporting world...

06 October 2014 - by James Storm 
Russell Blackford's venture into heated human enhancement rhetoric feels very much like being plunged into the world of Andrew Niccol's 1997 film, Gattaca...
01 September 2014 - by James Storm 
Surrounding yourself with books and journal articles on human enhancement will see you encounter the word 'eugenics' on a regular basis. The unfortunate thing about this word is that it has become bound to a particularly nasty piece of world history - and for many people this association is a reason to wince, whilst rejecting whichever idea or theory it is trying to re-associate itself with today....
04 November 2013 - by Matthew Thomas 
Underlying the genetics of intelligence debate is our strong attachment to the idea of 'potential' and freedom to fulfil it. This blank slate approach to achievement is seductive, but is it based in fact?...
14 October 2013 - by Dr James Heather 
We had almost made it through the speakers when it happened, just before the break. It was the last speaker who did it. It was Dr Joyce Harper who said what I'd been waiting for, and dropped the Gattaca bomb...
09 September 2013 - by Dr Anna Smajdor 
The prospect of eugenics has re-emerged in multiple new guises. The polarising power of this concept is part of its fascination, but this is not necessarily fruitful for debate or policy-making. In their booklet, Stephen Wilkinson and Eve Garrard address this problem...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation