Neuroethics

From Academic Kids

Neuroethics is most commonly understood to be the bioethics subcategory concerned with neuroscience. A typical question in neuroethics might be: What is the difference between treating a human neurological disease and simply enhancing the human brain? Another such question might be: Is it fair for the wealthy to have access to neurotechnology, while the poor do not?

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fMRI data

Neuroethical problems could complement or compound ethical issues raised by genomics, genetics, genetic engineering.

Rees and Rose (as cited in "References" on page 9) claim neuroethics is a neologism that emerged only at the beginning of the 21st century, largely through the oral and written communications of ethicists and philosophers. (They do not disparage the discipline in the least, however.) They wrote that neuroethics addresses concerns about the effects neuroscience and neurotechnology will have on other aspects of human life: namely "personal responsibility", law, and justice. Further, they claimed neuroethical problems would become real by the 2020s.

Definitions

What is the scope of neuroethics?

Not surprisingly, no specific definition of neuroethics is universally accepted. Writer William Safire probably coined the term, and defined it as "the field of philosophy that discusses the rights and wrongs of the treatment of, or enhancement of, the human brain." Dartmouth College Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Director Michael S. Gazzaniga (as cited in "References") argued definitions such as Safire's are inadequate, and posited instead that neuroethics studies "how we want to deal with the social issues of disease, normality, mortality, lifestyle, and the philosophy of living, informed by our understanding of underlying brain mechanisms." He elaborated: "It is—or should be—an effort to come up with a brain-based philosophy of life."

Two categories of problems

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Applying psychopharmacology could lead to ethical concerns.

Neuroethical problems can be divided into two categories: those that result from engineering advancement, and those that result from philosophical (including scientific) advancement. Such engineering advancement includes development of functional neuroimaging, psychopharmacology, brain implants, and brain-machine interfaces. Philosophical advancement includes the biological study of ancient questions about the human person, relating to behavior, personality, and consciousness.

Important activity in 2002 and 2003

The years 2002 and 2003 saw significant development of neuroethics as a subject of wide discussion. Judy Illes of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (as cited in "References") claimed the neuroethical discipline "emerged formally" sometime in 2002 or 2003, though she actually dates its development to 1989. Regardless of whether this is true, it is undeniable that neuroethics rose to new relevance during the early 21st century. Indeed, four major neuroethics conferences ocurred in the year 2002 alone. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the journal Neuron conducted a meeting in January. The Center for Bioethics (of the University of Pennsylvania) and the Center for Neuroscience held a conference in February. The Royal Institution of London conducted a conference in March, followed by one in May by the Dana Foundation. (All these meetings addressed concerns of neuroethics.)

External links

References

  • Gazzaniga, M. S. (2005). The ethical brain. The Dana Press.
  • Illes, J. (2003, October 24). Neuroethics in a new era of neuroimaging. In American journal of neuroradiology, 24, 1739 – 1741.
  • Rees, D. & Rose, S. (2004). New brain sciences: perils and prospects. Cambridge University Press.

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