Beyond therapy? Investigating biomedical enhancement in the case of human growth hormone

Morrison, Michael (2008) Beyond therapy? Investigating biomedical enhancement in the case of human growth hormone. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This project is an investigation of the issue of human biomedical enhancement, taking human growth hormone as a case study. Growth hormone is mainly used to increase the adult height of short children, and is also employed illicitly as an anti-ageing treatment. Both these applications are viewed by bioethicists as going beyond the scope of therapeutic medicine by enhancing normal human traits rather than treating diseases and as such are considered ethically suspect. This project adopts a comparative and retrospective stance, examining the socio-historical development of human growth hormone in the US, where much of the impetus for enhancement uses has originated, and also in the UK where the potential for enhancement uses of pharmaceuticals and other medical technologies is a growing concern.

This project combines a social constructivist approach to bodies and disease categories with science and technology studies theory on the emergence and shaping of new (medical) technologies. Research focuses on the development of growth hormone as a medical technology and the construction of the diagnostic categories that define the illness it is employed to treat. A combination of archive material and contemporary interview data is used to investigate and identify factors that shape the way some applications of hGH have come to be viewed as legitimate, accepted practices while others remain unstable and controversial.

Enhancement suggests an inappropriate use of biomedicine, but in the case of growth hormone at least, the determination of medical need and entitlement is shown to be more than a matter of instrumental measurements. It is a contingent and socially shaped procedure that is applied in heterogeneous ways at different sites in the networks of healthcare provision. This technique provides a different model for thinking about those biomedical practices labelled as enhancement, which does not share the limitations of that framing.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Martin, P.A.
Tutton, R.
Keywords: Science and technology studies, human Growth Hormone, bioethics, biomedical enhancement, sociology of health and illness, social construction
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute for Science and Society
Item ID: 10631
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2008
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2017 04:41

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