The ethics of addiction vaccines

  • June 6, 2012
The ethics of addiction vaccines

Michael Young co-authors a paper on the ethics of creating vaccines against addiction.

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 [2011].

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.”

Picture credit: Victor Habbick and www.freedigitalphotos.com

 

Latest News

Gut bacteria links to immune responses in the brain

Bugs in the gut may hold the key to protective immune measures in the brain which could have implications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Zachary Fitzpatrick. A paper based on his PhD research has recently been published in Nature and it highlights […]

Exploring the social barriers to take-up of green technology

How can rural communities be encouraged to take up green energy solutions? A new study co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath investigates the social barriers to uptake of household appliances fuelled by green energy. Based on research on more than 14.5K households in rural communities in Rwanda, the study, published in Renewable Energy, found […]

A new technique to decode the way the nervous system works

How do the billions of neurons in the human brain work together to give rise to thought or certain types of behaviour? A new study led by Gates Cambridge Alumnus Eviatar Yemini [2007] outlines a colouring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible – at least in experiments […]

An innovative approach to plant protection

Shauna-Lee Chai is passionate about working on wicked problems, about using her entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of others and about seeing the big picture, something she says her experience as a Gates Cambridge Scholar contributed to. Her expertise is in invasive plant species and for three years she was Board Director of the […]