The ethics of addiction vaccines
Published 6 June 2012
“The temptation to use a potential vaccine to ‘solve’ the immense problem of abuse and addiction is enormous, but the ethical challenges that would accompany any proposal for widespread or mandatory use are daunting."
Should people who are addicted to or might become addicted to drugs be given a vaccine to combat substance-use disorders or could this create new ethical problems?
A new article on the moral issues raised by the development of a unique class of immunotherapies, co-authored by a Gates scholar, is published this month.
The article, entitled 'Immune to Addiction: the ethical dimensions of vaccines against substance-abuse', is published in the June edition of Nature Immunology and is co-authored by Michael Young .
It examines the ethical and social issues belonging to the evolving category of addiction vaccines which were developed in response to the health and social impact of addiction. It looks at issues such as who should be vaccinated, whether vaccines should be used only to treat or also to prevent drug dependence and how the use of vaccines for substance abuse might affect a person’s sense of personal responsibility in recovery.
It concludes: “The temptation to use a potential vaccine to ‘solve’ the immense problem of abuse and addiction is enormous, but the ethical challenges that would accompany any proposal for widespread or mandatory use are daunting. The opprobrium and suspicion that vaccines often seem to attract portends intensified controversy when the targets are behavioural phenotypes. It is vital to address these issues now, lest some of the battles, misperceptions and fear-mongering that have dominated vaccine policy too much resurface in the ethically fraught area of addiction treatment.”
Michael worked on the article in collaboration with faculty in the Division of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the Scattergood Programme for the Applied Ethics of Behavioural Health.
Michael is doing an MPhil in the Philosophy Faculty in Cambridge. He says: “The article focuses on philosophical issues in medicine and bioethics, and exemplifies my research interests at the interface of medicine and moral philosophy.”
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