Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2017


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Health Care Ethics


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Henk ten Have

Committee Member

Gerard Magill

Committee Member

Joris Gielen


Cognitive Enhancement, Emotive Enhancement, Human Dignity, Human Enhancement, Military Medical Ethics, Physical Enhancement


War is a terrible price to pay for the prospect of peace. Yet every nation has a moral obligation to protect its citizenry from unjust aggression and threats to security. To be sure, war is always a failure. It is a failure of mankind to come together in mutual respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. The issue of the use of HE in the military is relevant today because the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and the rapid rise of emerging technologies have led to a never-before-seen type of asymmetrical warfare. The rise of these technologies can threaten the inherent dignity of the human person. In turn, the value that a nation places on human dignity in many ways is a gauge of what sorts of rights it will guarantee to its citizens, which impacts their ability to pursue basic human goods and contribute to the common good.

Military culture seeks to instill virtues, such as courage and justice, in soldiers and also uphold particular military values, such as honor and selfless service. These virtues and values can be threatened if the use of HE in the military are used for immoral purposes. Paternalism, coercion, undue influence, and limited autonomy are all factors that can undermine the dignity of soldiers. Yet these threats can be overcome through a moral framework for how to ethically assess the use of HE in the military. The moral criteria of reversibility, upholding moral agency and military values, voluntary informed consent, and the use of non-HE technologies first (last resort) presented in this dissertation allows one to approach different HE technologies for use in the military and determine if they are compatible with human flourishing. It will be imperative that HE technologies in the military, if morally permissible, are used on a small-scale and only for necessity, not convenience. This approach is valuable because it can overcome demands put forth from the civilian realm that these HE technologies should be available to them as well; based upon philosophical claims of autonomy and individual rights.

This dissertation is distinct insofar that it provides a comprehensive approach to current and future ethical issues related to HE in the military. To strengthen and compliment this moral framework, some recommendations are put forth in this dissertation. These include greater transparency in HE research and use, the designation of soldiers as a vulnerable population, greater ethics education for military health care professionals, the codification of international principles and guidelines for the use of HE technologies in the military, and finally a recommendation to balance the overarching principles of autonomy and individualism with a communitarian ethic and common good approach as a beneficial way to assess the use of HE in the military.