For some years now, in response to the rising challenges of global socioeconomic competition, both the scientific community and the public have been debating whether the improvement of individuals’ performance with the help of technical or biomedical interventions in the human body – termed enhancement – is a welcome, inevitable or undesirable vision of the future.
The report on brain research by the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) (Bundestagsdrucksache 16/7821) also presented evidence of a growing trend towards the use of pharmaceuticals and other medical interventions to specifically influence mental states and capacities.
Following publication of the highly respected TAB report »Gene Doping«, an analysis of physical performance enhancement in sport, the Committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment commissioned the TAB to undertake a technology assessment project on »pharmacological and technical interventions to improve performance – prospects for more widespread use in medicine and everyday life« (»Enhancement Project«).
The TAB’s final report analyzes the areas of development and use with the greatest social and political relevance now and in the foreseeable future, i.e. ... mehrcurrent developments and plausible trends regarding the use of psychopharmaceuticals and other drugs to enhance performance in working and everyday life. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the current status of possibilities to influence human performance by pharmacological means and of the classification of those agents within the framework of laws regulating medicines, foods and healthcare. This will facilitate a realistic discussion of future developments that clearly stands out from previous hypothetical and visionary descriptions of enhancement. The report shows that the targeted development and use of pharmacological substances for nontherapeutic performance enhancement is incompatible with the current objectives of the medical innovation system and the remit of doctors. A change in this situation would require a far-reaching public and political opinion-forming process. At the same time, the systematic analysis of the scientific approach to the doping problem in elite and competitive sport undertaken in the TAB report points to the need for a thorough public debate on how to deal with growing demands for performance and innate differences in abilities among individuals.
The report based on TAB report Nr. 143 »Pharmakologische Interventionen zur Leistungssteigerung als gesellschaftliche Herausforderung. Endbericht zum TA-Projekt« examines the options for action in the fields of research, regulation, healthcare consumer protection and prevention.