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Title: The ethico-legal implications of neuroscience : where do we draw the line?
Authors: Cassar, Daniela
Keywords: Neurosciences
Magnetic resonance imaging
Neurosciences -- Moral and ethical aspects
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: Neuroscience has become a focus in the medico-legal debate as the use of neuroscientific technology spreads progressively, even beyond the confines of the medical sphere. Defined as the science that studies the nervous system, and the activity in the structure and the functioning of the brain, neuroscience has become increasingly prevalent within the sphere of criminal law in the form of evidence produced during criminal proceedings, together with conventional evidence. This dissertation seeks to identify and explore the ethical and legal implications that arise from the use of neuroscientific technologies such as Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), whether for therapeutic and non-therapeutic reasons. A central issue that this dissertation examines is the exhibition of neuroimaging data in the course of criminal trials for the purpose of demonstrating one’s criminal responsibility. This dissertation attempts to answer questions on how much can neuroscience tell us about an individual’s behaviour; what are the ethical and legal implications of the use of neuroscience in both the medical and non-medical context; in what manner may the use of neuroscientific applications be regulated in order to mitigate the ethical and legal implications; and ultimately, where do we draw the line? The response to these questions is done through a study of judgments, mostly delivered by the United States’ Supreme Court and which were, to a large extent, influenced by neuroscientific evidence produced during criminal trials. This study is followed by the identification of the ethical and legal implications given rise to by the application of neuroscience, such as the problem of informed consent and data protection issues. Other significant ethico-legal implications include the issue of mental privacy and the fundamental human rights that come into play in criminal trials, particularly the right to a fair trial and the principle of the presumption of innocence. In response to the above questions, this dissertation proposes measures in order that the use of neuroscience may take place within the appropriate parameters and that abuse may be controlled. Whilst proposing the integration of law, bioethics and neuroscience, which should be grounded in legal integrity and scientific credibility, this dissertation proposes a European Regulatory Framework to govern the use of neuroscientific technology, whilst encouraging the use of neuroimaging technology. It also lays down the parameters for the admission of neuroscience into the courtroom of European states, which should be subject to the satisfactory performance of the technology, which ensures reliable and accurate results. Moreover, the proposed framework is necessary to put in place the safeguards aimed at protecting individuals subject to neuroimaging, from the breach of their mental privacy as well as the violation of other fundamental human rights. This dissertation explores and exposes the extent of the involvement of law and bioethics in neuroscience. The proposed framework builds on the beneficial development of this relationship and the effective use of neuroscientific technologies. The discussion is inspired by the successful collaboration of the multi-disciplinary professions, which integrates further the intersections of neuroscience, law and bioethics, and helps to answer the question on where to draw the line.
Description: M.A.BIOETHICS
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacThe - 2014

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