Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Quayshawn Spencer


Drawing from normative ethics and analytic philosophy of race, this dissertation focuses on the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of emerging biotechnologies and novel clinical practices in relation to potentially vulnerable populations. The first two chapters challenge presumptive duties in favor of moral bioenhancements (MBs). Here, MBs are understood as medical interventions that alter human moral cognition – e.g., the use of non-invasive brain stimulation to mitigate aggressive behavior. In Chapter 1, I argue that there is no universal moral obligation to utilize MBs, because the mass utilization of MBs may undermine the moral dispositions they seek to promote through unwarranted differential treatment between enhanced individuals and unenhanced individuals. Chapter 2 zooms in to focus on the obligations owed to and by individuals with psychiatric disorders. I argue that when an individual with a psychiatric disorder can act autonomously and make informed decisions, and when there are viable alternatives to MBs for the prevention of harm, the person with a psychiatric disorder is not obligated to utilize MBs. The second pair of chapters demonstrate how race theory from the analytic philosophy tradition can and should inform discourse in medical ethics and public health policy. In Chapter 3, I use a virtue theoretic framework to construct a decision tree to determine when, if ever, it is morally permissible to use a biological racial classification in medicine. In Chapter 4, I offer a modified version of Jorge L.A. Garcia’s volitional account of racism (VAR) and argue that my modified account is a superior alternative to competing theories of racism when considered in a healthcare context because of its accuracy and comprehensiveness. Though seemingly disparate topics, each chapter aims to promote the just and benevolent treatment of all humans contending with life, death, and health – so, everyone.