Cognitive Enhancers and Mental Impairment: Emerging Ethical Issues

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Neurotechnology has been discussed in the literature as either treatment or enhancement, although a clear-delineation between the two has not been drawn. This chapter explores a third use of neurotechnology that neither fits squarely into the category of treatment, nor carries some of the moral hesitancies of pure enhancement in healthy persons. This third category, referred to as enhancement-2, is the enhancement of those persons who have baseline cognitive impairments related to a mental disability, but are relatively healthy otherwise. Considering that cognitively impaired healthy individuals could improve functionality in "major life activities" and enhance their overall quality of life, the use of cognitive enhancers can be morally justified through careful analysis on a case-specific basis. A careful examination of the risks involved in cognitive enhancement procedures for particular individuals, in consultation with their legal representative, warrants a prudent acceptance of enhancement technologies for the mentally impaired.

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