developed to enable individuals to lift much heavier loads than would be possible for unassisted individuals. These latter devices have not been designed for use in direct combat—rather, they enable soldiers in the field to move and handle heavy logistic burdens more easily.

3.2.3 Ethical, Legal, and Societal Questions and Implications

In a nonmilitary context, ethical, legal, and societal issues regarding prosthetics and human enhancement technology span a wide range, and some if not most of these issues spill over into the military context. Such issues include (but are not limited to):

• Exacerbation of economic inequalities due to the high cost of prostheses.

• Damage to solidarities and/or culture based on a group’s common experience with lost human function (as is the concern of many in the deaf community).

• Reducing the importance and value of human effort in improving human function (a particularly important point when considering enhancements). If anyone can become very fast, or very strong, or very smart simply by using a prosthetic device, how should we regard an individual who has expended a great deal of personal effort to become faster, stronger, or smarter?

The remainder of this section addresses a number of ethical, legal, and societal issues related to prosthetics and human enhancement that emerge in the military context.23

International Law

The Martens clause contained in the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions in essence prohibits weapons whose use would violate the laws of humanity and the requirements of the public conscience. Established as a way to ensure that the use of weapons not explicitly covered by the conventions was not necessarily permitted by them, the Martens clause is broadly recognized as having no accepted interpretation. Nevertheless, some analysts argue that the existence of the Martens clause


23 Patrick Lin, “More Than Human? The Ethics of Biologically Enhancing Soldiers,” The Atlantic, February 16, 2012, available at

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