"Love and Other Drugs:" JCU Welcomes Bioethicist Mirko Garasic

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In the future “love drugs” could help us to be more faithful and empathetic, or to leave abusive or otherwise unwanted relationships. Should such drugs be allowed? And should we take them?

The JCU Department of History and Humanities hosted bioethicist Mirko Garasic, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights, Rome, and a professor at LUISS University, Rome, on February 21, 2019.

Mirko Garasic

Mirko Garasic

Garasic illustrated the biochemical substances that have been scientifically proven to be associated with being in love. With a pinch of dopamine, a dash of oxytocin, and a handful of serotonin, you can recreate the famous “being in love” feeling. Therefore, if it were possible to narrow down the exact chemical components of love, why not make the most of this formula?

Garasic outlined the various situations that could possibly allow for these drugs to be prescribed, but also called attention to the ethical consequences that such decisions would have. According to Garasic, there are different motivations and situations where love drugs could potentially be used, and he described the various types of effects the drugs would have. He divided the substances into two categories, “love-preserving drugs” and “love-diminishing drugs.” For example, the first type of love drug could potentially be used to save a marriage for the sake of the children, or even to help a lover to overcome prejudices or weaknesses. In contrast, the second category of drugs could help a person detach him or herself from an abusive partner. By doing so, love drugs would be helping in situations where emotions could be impeding rationality. But at what cost?

Although such drugs may seem harmless, Garasic brought up different ethical perspectives that question how far their use should go. Do we want to think of love as a disease or medical condition? If love drugs were to be approved/legalized, the substances would have to be considered as a medicalization. If they would be prescribed to a person grieving after the loss of a loved one, or to a person suffering from unrequited love, say, to what extent should love be medicalized in such ways? Is it safe to medicalize such an intimate part of one’s life? Garasic also pointed out that “enhancing love is very different from enhancing one’s eyesight, strength or cognitive capabilities, also because it involves a large risk of deception.” What if one’s lover failed to disclose that he or she was taking such drugs?

On these points, Mirko Garasic furthered the conversation by explaining that if love drugs were to be accepted by society, it would mean that the concept of love would be completely transformed. For these reasons, love drugs do not bode well when considering the ethical circumstances of their usage. Garasic concluded that, although suffering because of love may be common, painful, and stressful, medicalizing it is not the solution.