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The use of Ritalin and other stimulant drug treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) raises distinctive moral dilemmas for parents; these moral dilemmas have not been adequately addressed in the bioethics literature. This paper draws upon data from a qualitative empirical study to investigate parents' use of the moral ideal of authenticity as part of their narrative justifications for dosing decisions and actions. I show that therapeutic decisions and actions are embedded in valued cultural ideals about masculinity, self-actualization and success, as well as in moral conceptions of authenticity and personal freedom. I argue that this investigation of parents' moral justifications and dosing dilemmas raises questions about the validity of authenticity as a transcendent moral principle. Moreover, this study demonstrates that in order to be relevant, bioethical analysis of neurocognitive enhancement must engage with ground-up studies of moral principles and decision-making in context.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Bioeth

Publication Date





34 - 47


Analytical Approach, Empirical Approach, Mental Health Therapies, Adolescent, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Behavior Control, Biomedical Enhancement, Central Nervous System Stimulants, Child, Child Behavior, Cognition, Decision Making, Drug Administration Schedule, Ethical Analysis, Fathers, Female, Humans, Intention, Male, Methylphenidate, Mothers, Narration, Parenting, Personality, Qualitative Research, Reproducibility of Results, Sports, Surveys and Questionnaires