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Bioethics of military performance enhancement
  1. Maxwell Mehlman
  1. School of Law, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Maxwell Mehlman, School of Law, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA; mjm10{at}


Biological interventions to improve performance, such as amphetamines, have a long history of military use, and in the future may include more advanced biotechnologies. This article discusses the ethics of using biomedical enhancements in the military. The article begins by describing the distinction between biomedical enhancements and interventions intended to prevent, treat or mitigate disease. It then sets forth three principles to guide the ethical use of bioenhancements—proportionality, paternalism and fairness. The article applies these principles to concerns raised by military bioenhancement: safety, fairness in access to military reward, carryover effects to civilian life, whether service members can be ordered to use bioenhancements and when they may be permitted to do so voluntarily.

  • medical ethics
  • medical law
  • social medicine
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  • Funding Funding for this article was provided by US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health and National Human Genome Research Institute 1R03HG006730-01.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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