Ethical issues in neurology

Karen S Rommelfanger PhD (Dr. Rommelfanger of Emory University has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Kelsey Drewry MA (Ms. Drewry of Emory University has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
James G Greene MD PhD, editor. (Dr. Greene of Emory University School of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Originally released June 7, 2015, last updated August 2, 2017; expires August 2, 2020

This article includes discussion of ethical issues in neurology, neuroethics, neurologic ethics, personhood, disorders of consciousness, predictive brain health, prodrome, and informed consent. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.

Overview

Neuroethics is a distinct content field that is concerned with “the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics.” In clinical specialties like neurology, neurosurgery, and neuropsychology, neuroethics focuses on the ethics of neurotechnology research and application as well as social and policy issues associated with their use. A young and rapidly growing field, neuroethics has had a substantial impact on scientific research and clinical practice. Neuroethics has been emphasized by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and has become an integral part of major national-level funded neuroscience initiatives across the globe.

Key points

 

• The modern association of personhood and identity with the mind and brain are what distinguish neuroethics from other subjects of bioethical inquiry.

 

• Neuroethics focuses on the ethics of neurotechnology research and application, as well as social and policy issues associated with their use.

 

• As neuroscience continues to evolve and the nature of possible clinical interventions changes, neurologists must begin to consider the implications of interventions to the brain on personhood and identity, autonomy and agency, as well as for informed consent.

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