Bioethics’s Hot Topic of Growth Hormones
In the article “Does Shortness Need a Cure?” Ronald Bailey, the author, indicates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of growth hormone use offers a treatment plan for those who are short in stature. Bailey also acknowledges bioethics as a seriously debated topic in the medical field. Bioethics deals with the studies of “moral issues in the fields of medical treatment and research” (Caplan). Bailey touches on the topic of bioethics as it deals with the use of growth hormones, specifically Human Growth Hormone (HGH) for people who are distinguished by their short stature.
FDA Ruling and the Ethics Behind it
In July of this year, the FDA announced growth hormones, traditionally reserved for people with growth disorders, will be made available for use by children who are naturally short (Bailey). According to Bailey, “pediatric endocrinologists are permitted to prescribe HGH for children whose predicted adult height is below 4 feet 11 inches for women and 5 feet 3 inches for men” (Bailey). HGH is not a new drug; it has been used for years and prescribed for those with growing disorders. The number of patients for whom the drug is prescribed is expected to increase because of the new FDA ruling. The FDA ruling states use of the drug is no longer just for those with growth disorders (Bailey).
What is Normal?
The perceived goal of children, or their parents, in Bailey’s article is to be of normal height at adulthood; but what is normal? The average height for American men is 5’9” and for women it is 5’4” (Bailey). According to Robert W. Steele, M.D., “alterations [in growth] may be in the form of a growth slow down, accelerated growth, or disproportionate growth. However, everybody is different, and so growth patterns are bound to be different as well.” In other words, everyone is different; therefore, it is difficult to tell whether a child will grow taller (Steele 1). Giving injections of a drug to children who may not need it would be unnecessary time and money spent on treatment.
According to bioethicist Arthur L. Caplan, using such drugs to change the height of children implies it is unacceptable to be short. "Whenever you take people on the low end of a distribution curve and say they have a disorder, you're starting down a slippery slope" (Bailey). It is dangerous to state people who are different have a problem or disorder. If one group is considered abnormal then more will believe there is something seriously wrong with them. People of short stature often do not have disorders. Short stature is not a problem, it is just a situation, just like those who are naturally taller than most. Because these people are being labeled with disorders, they believe the use of drugs will increase their growth to, what people consider, is a normal height.
At a young age, it is hard to tell what size a child will grow to. “There are many ‘formulas’ people have said are...