Growth hormone therapy for short stature: Panacea or Pandora's box?

David B. Allen, Norman C. Fost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Increased availability of growth hormone (GH) because of increased production using recombinant DNA technology has led to increased demand. Many children who do not have classic GH deficiency may respond to GH therapy. These observations require rethinking of the medical indications for GH therapy, and raise two central ethical questions: (1) is it justified to discriminate on the basis of GH deficiency? (2) Whatever the indication for GH treatment, at what height should GH therapy be considered an etitlement? We argue, first, that GH responsiveness, not GH deficiency, should be the criterion for GH treatment, and that prior arguments emphasizing GH deficiency are based on vague or faulty notions of disease, handicap, or potential. Second, we argue that children who are handicapped (arbitrarily defined as including those whose height is below the 1st percentile) and GH responsive are entitied to treatment. Children above that height, whether GH deficient or not, may permissibly be treated, but there is no societal obligation to do so. Such an approach would reduce, though not eliminate, some of the more severe burdens of short stature without aggravating the pernicious effects of "heightism" in American society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalThe Journal of pediatrics
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Jul 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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