, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 133-143

Be careful what you wish for? Theoretical and ethical aspects of wish-fulfilling medicine

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Abstract

There is a growing tendency for medicine to be used not to prevent or heal illnesses, but to fulfil individual personal wishes such as wishes for enhanced work performance, better social skills, children with specific characteristics, stress relief, a certain appearance or a better sex life. While recognizing that the subject of wish-fulfilling medicine may vary greatly and that it may employ very different techniques, this article argues that wish-fulfilling medicine can be described as a cohesive phenomenon with distinctive features. Following a few examples of well established wish-fulfilling medical practices and a brief definition of the phenomenon, both theoretical aspects and ethical implications of such practices are discussed and the question is raised how wish-fulfilling medicine should be evaluated from an ethical point of view. It is concluded that modern medicine is currently ill equipped to provide reasons why wish-fulfilling medicine should be banned or discouraged. The phenomenon of wish-fulfilling medicine serves as a prime example of the vagueness of the descriptive and the lack of decisive orientation of the normative categories employed in modern medicine.