|2012-2013||Stagiaire postdoctoral-e, Éthique et santé|
I am interested on socio-ethical issues related to human enhancement, more especially on the influence of the concept of death on the current effort to decelerate aging and extend life span.
I completed a PhD in biology at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, in the laboratory
of Prof. Jean-Claude Martinou. My work explored the survival of C.elegans – a tiny transparent nematode of about one thousand cells and one millimetre long – in anoxia (i.e., complete absence of oxygen). I showed that specific types of ceramide – a kind of lipids that are present in cells – are necessary for the worm to survive total absence of oxygen (Menuz et al, 2009). This research has leaded me to develop a considerable expertise in molecular biology, genetics and genomics.
As a biologist, I worked with many tools of molecular biology that have been developed
these last thirty years and I have been sensitized by the amazing possibilities offered by these tools to potentially genetically modify living beings and, more specifically, by their potential applications on human beings. The combination of medicine and technology offers the possibility to improve many aspects of healthy human beings and give the opportunity to “enhance” humans into something “better” by modifying, for instance, their brain functions, physical capacities or behavioural traits. I considered that, as a biologist, working on bioethics was part of my responsibility and I started, in 2010, a post-doctoral fellowship in bioethics at the University of Montréal with Prof. Béatrice Godard.
My work in bioethics has mainly focused on socio-ethical issues related to “human enhancement”. After having shown that the very concept of human enhancement is tightly linked to personal considerations (Menuz et al, 2011), I have explored some of the motivations that may lead individuals to undergo technological modifications in order to be enhanced (Menuz, forthcoming in 2013a). I have proposed that such motivations are influenced by socio-cultural pressures, which shape individual objectives. Among the different kind of pressures that have emerged from this work, the concept of death – notably the fear of death – may strongly influence individuals to undergo technological modifications in order to fight aging as well as to increase lifespan. So far, while the notion of “quality of life” has mainly been put forward to justify efforts to decelerate aging and extend lifespan, the concept of death may also play a role in such efforts. This observation questions both the goals pursued by Western medicine and science as well as, more generally, how Western societies deal with the concept of death.
During my stay at the cré I explored “whether” and “how” the concept of death may influence efforts
to decelerate aging and extend life span. I have shown that both concepts of aging and death are embedded in complex ethical nets. Basically, Western countries consider that lives are worth to preserve and, as a consequence, death should be fought. On this basis, on the one hand, some commentators consider that aging – a leading cause of death worldwide – should be fought and, on the other hand, the concept of death is used to convince individuals to adopt pro-health behaviour that may ensure a healthy aging, a condition that may postpone death for a while (Menuz, forthcoming in 2013b). I conducted empirical studies (i.e., analysis of the literature addressing socio-ethical issues related to anti-aging and life extension as well as semistructured interviews with renowned scientists in the field of the biology of aging) in order to further understand how the concept of death is embedded in current efforts to decelerate aging and/or increase longevity.
In addition to my position at the Centre de recherche en éthique de l’Université de Montréal (CREUM), I was affiliated with the OMICS-ETHICS Research group from the Programmes de bioéthique de l’Université de Montréal with which I collaborated on different projects, such as socio-ethical issues related to nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics as well as human enhancement, anti-aging, life extension and death.
Selected publications linked to human enhancement as well as aging, longevity and death
(if necessary, the complete list of publications can be found on http://omics-ethics.org en/member/16)
Refereed book section
- V. Menuz (2013a) Why do we wish to be enhanced?, in Human Enhancement: an
interdisciplinary inquiry, Edited by S. Bateman, J. Gayon, S. Allouche, J. Goffette and M.
Marzano. Publisher: McMillan (forthcoming in 2013)
- V. Menuz (2013b) Influence du concept de mort dans les efforts visant à ralentir le
vieillissement et augmenter la durée de la vie, Dynamiques du Viellissement (provisory
title) Edited by F. Villa, A. Vanier and O. Douville. Publisher: Press Universitaire de
France (PUF) (forthcoming in 2013)
Refereed scientific publications
- V. Menuz, T. Hurlimann and B. Godard (2011) Is human enhancement also a personal
matter?, Science and Engineering Ethics, DOI: 10.1007/s11948-011-9294-y
- V. Menuz et al (2009) Protection of C.elegans from anoxia by HYL-2 ceramide synthase,
Science, vol 324, pp 381-384
Commentaries, letters, opinions
- V. Menuz and J. Roduit (2012), Technologies ou singeries?, Bulletin des médecins suisses, vol 93(24), p.929-‐930
Column in newspapers
- V. Menuz and J. Roduit, “Jason Bourne: L’Héritage: modifications technologiques des guerriers de demain”, Huffington Post France, September 14th (electronic version) Paris (France) (http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/johann-roduit/modifications-genetiques-soldats_b_1872815.html)
- J. Roduit et V. Menuz (2012) “Total Recall : une vision du futur?”, A la Une, Huffington Post France, August 15th (electronic version) Paris (France)
- V. Menuz (2012) Laurent Alexandre (2011), La mort de la mort: comment la technomédecine va bouleverser l’humanité, Bioethics Forum Vol 5(3), p.121