, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 151–162 | Cite as

‘Cosmetic Neurology’ and the Moral Complicity Argument

  • A. RavelingienEmail author
  • J. Braeckman
  • L. Crevits
  • D. De Ridder
  • E. Mortier
Original Paper


Over the past decades, mood enhancement effects of various drugs and neuromodulation technologies have been proclaimed. If one day highly effective methods for significantly altering and elevating one’s mood are available, it is conceivable that the demand for them will be considerable. One urgent concern will then be what role physicians should play in providing such services. The concern can be extended from literature on controversial demands for aesthetic surgery. According to Margaret Little, physicians should be aware that certain aesthetic enhancement requests reflect immoral social norms and ideals. By granting such requests, she argues, doctors render themselves complicit to a collective ‘evil’. In this paper, we wish to question the extent to which physicians, psychiatrists and/or neurosurgeons should play a role as ‘moral gatekeepers’ in dealing with suspect demands and norms underlying potential desires to alter one’s mood or character. We investigate and discuss the nature and limits of physician responsibilities in reference to various hypothetical and intuitively problematic mood enhancement requests.


Neuroenhancement Mood Doctors Moral responsibility Cosmetic surgery 



This study was made possible thanks to the support of the Brocher Foundation and the Research Foundation Flanders. The authors also wish to thank Barbro Björkman and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Ravelingien
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Braeckman
    • 1
  • L. Crevits
    • 2
  • D. De Ridder
    • 3
  • E. Mortier
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Bioethics Institute GhentGhent UniversityGentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyGhent University HospitalGentBelgium
  3. 3.BRAI2N & Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of Antwerp HospitalEdegemBelgium
  4. 4.Department of AnaesthesiologyGhent University HospitalGentBelgium

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