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Normal Syndrome

According to Julian Savulescu: “We could halve the rate of mental illness tomorrow by redefinition. And we could continue to enhance the lives of normal people with the drugs developed in psychiatry.”

According to Julian Savulescu: “We could halve the rate of mental illness tomorrow by redefinition. And we could continue to enhance the lives of normal people with the drugs developed in psychiatry.”

By Stephen Luntz

What was once considered normal is becoming medicalised due to broader diagnostic criteria and the concoction of new disorders, but Julian Savulescu argues that this is merely biological enhancement by another name.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Professor Julian Savulescu, the controversial Australian bioethicist at Oxford University, says there has been a trend to medicalise many conditions that were once considered part of the normal range of humanity, and argues that this is occurring in large part to justify treatment. In September he told a Menzies Foundation lecture that we should instead become more comfortable with the idea that treatment should be available to those who have no disease, making these broader definitions unnecessary.

Treatment of those who are well is something that happens already, with the most obvious cases relating to fertility – either to assist during pregnancy or to prevent conception. “Pregnancy is not a disease. In fact it is the opposite of a disease,” argues Savulescu, pointing to a definition of disease as something that hinders an individual’s chance of living a full life and having offspring.

Yet while society takes medical involvement in such cases for granted, there is much less comfort with the idea of giving drugs to people who are considered well. As a result we are witnessing what Savulescu calls “an explosion of mental illness. Depression is the fourth leading cause of disability and disease worldwide. The World Health Organization projects that it will be the leading cause in developed countries by 2020. Are we unfit for the compressed, high paced,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.