November 06, 2007

Neuroethics after our freedom, our money and our brain

Bioethics does not content itself with owning our genetic information, sperm, ovules, and embryos - as well as our money. Now it wants to own our neurons. Something is happening during Halloween. Bioethics is giving birth to neuroethics.

In an editorial in Science Henry Greely asks for money to fund the enterprise:
[F]unds are essential to promote [studying the ethical, legal, and social implications of neuroscience], particularly by medical school researchers who depend on grants. In these days of tight federal budgets, money is hard to get. But to fund science without supporting work on its social consequences will ensure that the neuroscience revolution brings far too much social pain and chaos along with its scientific and medical breakthroughs.
Social pain and chaos... perhaps I would be worried if I knew what Greely is talking about.

Emily Anthes reports that Martha Farah, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, has asked for more taxpayers' money to fund neuro-enhancement and neurotechnologies.
If we keep the balance of power in the private sector, she said, the development of ethically questionable neurotechnologies and drugs may never be transparent. The relevant risks may never be disclosed, and we may not have the public debate we need before new products come to market.
In other words, let's put neuro-enhancement and neurotechnologies in the hands of government instead of our hands because government, unlike us, will make ethical, transparent and judicious use of brain technology... on us.

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