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Genomics, obesity and enhancement: moral issues regarding aesthetics and health


Human enhancement is the term used for applications of biomedical knowledge that aim to improve human form or functioning beyond what is necessary to restore or sustain good health. Genomics is one of the research-areas that promises to offer such possibilities in the near future, and body weight - especially over-weight and obesity - is one of the human characteristics at which these will be directed. This paper offers an overview of some of the moral issues that the subject of enhancement raises when related to obesity and genomics. After a brief discussion of the different perspectives on obesity and on the meaning of the term enhancement, a framework is presented in which the moral issues at stake are organised according to perspective on obesity (health or aesthetics) and moral outlook (distributive justice vs private morality). An inventory is made of the different ethical discussions that possible future genomics-based options for the prevention or treatment of obesity and overweight may evoke. These include justice, obligations with regard to life-style, the limits of medical practice and the value of food and food-cultures. Finally, some speculations are made with regard to future possibilities for genetic modification and "self-evolution".

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Correspondence to Maartje Schermer.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Schermer, M. Genomics, obesity and enhancement: moral issues regarding aesthetics and health. Life Sci Soc Policy 4, 36 (2008).

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