A Better Me

January 3, 2017
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Margaret Moon, a Johns Hopkins pediatrician and bioethicist, remembers when she first heard doctors discussing medical enhancement requests. A few years ago, a colleague of hers shared a story about parents who had requested a growth hormone, not because their son was hormone-deficient, but because the teen had eyes on a college baseball career. Every inch helped, the parents believed. Around this time, Moon had also been hearing stories from other pediatricians about an uptick in requests for Ritalin and Adderal—prescription stimulants typically given to those with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—but from patients who doctors suspected wanted to use them as study drugs. The prescriptions would help them focus.

Medical enhancements are under scrutiny in the pediatric community, as the distinction between enhancements and traditional treatments has blurred. Their use in children also raises significant issues concerning the goals of pediatric medicine, the role of the caregiver, and the complex nature of the parent-child-pediatrician relationship, according to Moon. A member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Bioethics Committee who looks into the ethical and moral implications of medical research and practice, Moon says that when talking with other committee members, it became clear that teen enhancements deserved some attention.

“Medicine is hard enough,” says Moon, a core faculty member with the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. “Faced with requests for enhancements, health care providers need more help. It’s not as simple as saying yes or no to the patient, but [rather] providing more information on what enhancement means for the individual and that particular case. You can’t just paint enhancement with a broad brush and say, here’s what it means for everyone.”

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Image: By ぽこ太郎 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25233058

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