Hello to readers of the Neuroethics and law Blog. My name is Gavin Enck and I am going to be the guest blogger for the month of February. I thought it would best to provide an introduction. I received my MA in philosophy from Ohio University in 2007 and, on February 15th, will be defending my doctoral dissertation in philosophy at the University of Tennessee. During graduate school, I served as an ethics committee member and on-call clinical ethicist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. Currently, I am doing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in clinical ethics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC). As the clinical ethicist fellow in the MD Anderson Cancer Center my duties involve weekly rounding in the acute palliative care unit and critical care unit, as well as rounding with other alternating departments and services, and serving as an on-call emergency ethicist for the institution.
My dissertation, “Enhancing the Virtues of Students,” centered on approaching the issues and questions about student (specifically undergraduate students) use of cognitive enhancers in education using the ideals of human excellence or virtues. Instead of asking, “Is a student who uses a cognitive enhancer cheating”, I suggest another question, “What kind of student do we want in our academic institutions?” I then take a virtues-based approach and argue that in some instances because an idealized virtuous student would use enhancements. Thus, I argue that a virtues-based approach provides guidance for students and revising our institutional rules in respect to the ideals of human excellence or virtues. Ultimately, my goal is to argue for motivation and character being regarded as relevant considerations in any normative assessment of enhancements. From this dissertation, the paper “Ideals of Student Excellence and Enhancement” was published in the journal Neuroethics However, my interest in pharmaceutical enhancement stretches beyond the theoretical to the clinical. In conjunction with John Bossaer, PharmD and Robert Enck, MD, we have a forthcoming article in the journal Academic Medicine “The Elephant in the Room: The Use (and Misuse) of 'Cognitive Enhancers' by students at an Academic Health Sciences Center” which is a first-of-its-kind study on the use of prescription stimulates by students pursuing professional healthcare science degrees. At MDACC, one of my research projects is on studying physicians’ attitudes about pharmaceutical enhancement and their views of the treatment-enhancement distinction. At least for me, the ethics of pharmaceutical enhancement is a fascinating topic because it ranges across the philosophical, psychological, social, and institutional domains. However, during this month of blogging the topics presented here will cover a range of issues in neuroethics beginning on Monday February 4th.
Before proceeding, I need to say the following. First, all of the positions and views put forward are my own and do not represent (or are meant to be representative of) MD Anderson position or policy. Second, while the views in this blog are my own, I would not be able to contribute to this blog were it not for the support and encouragement provided by MDACC. So I want to thank MDACC, specifically my colleagues in the Section of Integrated Ethics for this.