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Musterlösung 2013: Textverständnis und Analyse: Sachtext "Elective Performance Enhancement Surgery For Athletes" (GK)


  1. Summarize the text. (30 BE)
  2. Relate the problem described in the text to developments in the field of science and technology discussed in class. (35 BE)



The article “Performance Enhancement Surgery For Athletes” by Mark Hamilton, published on the Internet, is about surgical procedures to enhance the performance of athletes and about whether such medically unnecessary operations are ethnically tolerable.

As the author points out, amid the debate on the ethical implications of genetic engineering, the issue of performance enhancement surgery has so far been widely ignored despite its rapid advance in sports competitions.

New surgical techniques offer athletes the possibility to improve their memory, concentration, eye sight or strength. Among the most common performance enhancing operations are LASIK eye surgery which enables professional golfers or baseball players to play without glasses or contacts and the Tommy John ligament replacement surgery to improve a baseball player’s pitching speed.

Mark Hamilton considers the fact that these surgeries have so far not stirred up public criticism and carry little risk to be a double-edged sword for athletes. Financial incentives and the prospect of promoting their career, may induce athletes to gain advantages in sports competitions by means of an operation. On the other hand it may be a powerful tool for their management to demand first class performance.

Hamilton points out that the purposes of surgery have broadened over time, from the merely therapeutic to non-therapeutic purposes like cosmetic surgery. Yet he remains highly sceptical whether performance enhancing surgery should be accepted so easily and uncritically and without established policy.

(232 words)


For centuries surgery has been used to heal and to save lives, but over the last decades its purpose has extended the merely therapeutic one. It can help to enhance people’s appearance or their physical performance. In any case, this non-therapeutic purpose serves to improve nature. Developments in other areas of science and technology serve a similar goal.

Few medical breakthroughs have met with such a divided echo as human cloning. While many scientists hail human cloning as a watershed, others fear a more sinister turnout. Advocates of the cloning of human embryonic stem cells regard it as a major step to create replacement organs and replacement tissue in order to treat diseases. Opponents believe human cloning may one day take a turn towards creating cloned babies, or in the case of therapeutic cloning, towards regarding human embryos as a mere product.

Another aspect of genetic engineering that has given rise to massive debates is the production of genetically modified food. Scientists and proponents believe that GM technology may help to solve the world’s food problems by creating crops that will offer more yields and be more resistant to pests and adverse climate conditions. While the USA welcomes GM food and is less sceptical about possible risks, the European Union allows the growth of genetically modified plants only within strict limits. On top of that critics warn of unforeseeable consequences of GM food for humans

The controversies about the actual benefits and potential risks of both therapeutic cloning and GM food serve to illustrate the difficulties of progress in many fields of sciences and technology. Ethical questions are raised where technological advances threaten to get out of human control or may open dangerous developments. As with GM food and human cloning, there need to be limits with performance enhancing surgery. Only then can there be a guarantee that sports competitions do not lose their true purpose which is a fair contest between athletes relying on skill, talent and hard training rather than “surgical doping”.

(331 words)

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