Background Debates and controversies have shaped the understanding and the practices related to death determined by neurological criterion (DNC). Confusion about DNC in the public domain could undermine this notion. This confusion could further jeopardise confidence in rigorous death determination procedures, and raise questions about the integrity, sustainability, and legitimacy of modern organ donation practices. Objective We examined the depictions of ‘brain death’ in major American and Canadian print media to gain insights into possible common sources of confusion about DNC (...) and the relationship between expert and lay views on this crucial concept. Methods We gathered 940 articles, available in electronic databases, published between 2005 and 2009 from high-circulation Canadian and American newspapers containing keywords ‘brain dead’ or ‘brain death’. Articles were systematically examined for content (eg, definitions of brain death and criteria for determination of death) using the NVivo 8 software. Results Our results showed problematic aspects in American and Canadian media, with some salient differences. DNC was used colloquially in 39% (N=366) of the articles and its medical meaning infrequently defined (2.7%; N=14 in the USA and 3.6%; N=15 in Canada). The neurological criterion for determination of death was mentioned in less than 10% of the articles, and life support in about 20% of the articles. Organ donation issues related to DNC were raised more often in Canadian articles than in American articles (33.5% vs 21.2%; p<0.0001). Interpretation Further discussion is needed to develop innovative strategies to bridge media representations of DNC with experts’ views in connection with organ donation practices. (shrink)
In the care of patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC), some ethical difficulties stem from the challenges of accurate diagnosis and the uncertainty of prognosis. Current neuroimaging research on these disorders could eventually improve the accuracy of diagnoses and prognoses and therefore change the context of end-of-life decision making. However, the perspective of healthcare professionals on these disorders remains poorly understood and may constitute an obstacle to the integration of research. We conducted a qualitative study involving healthcare professionals from an (...) acute care university medical center. A short questionnaire captured demographic data as well as the experience of participants with DOC patients. A semi-structured interview was used to explore attitudes toward ethical issues identified in a previous literature review. Qualitative content analysis of interviews was conducted with the NVivo software. Accurate diagnosis among DOC is often regarded as a challenge, but this was generally not the case for our participants because most reported high confidence in DOC diagnoses. However, participants reported struggling with prognosis, especially because of its essential role for end-of-life decision making and communication with families. Variability of opinion between healthcare professionals was reported and identified by some as a minor issue while others stressed how families struggle with different medical opinions. End-of-life decision making encompassed a large proportion of ethical challenges in these patients, and the removal of artificial nutrition and hydration created significant discomfort in a minority of participants. The concept of futility was subject to wide-ranging understandings with both favorable and unfavorable opinions. Our data suggest that to ensure the incorporation of new evidence-based advances, attention should be directed to the real-world practices and challenges of accurate diagnosis and prognosis. Given pervasive challenges in end-of-life care, we recommend improved training of healthcare professionals in the care of patients with DOC, particularly in end-of life care, understanding the context of decision making, and determining how to optimally integrate new neuroscience research on the care of patients with DOC. (shrink)
This paper examines interwoven ethical and epistemological issues raised by attempts to promote responsive childcare practices based on neuroscience evidence on the developmental effects of early stress. The first section presents this “neuroscience argument for responsive early childcare”. The second section introduces some evidential challenges posed by the use of evidence from developmental neuroscience as grounds for parental practice recommendations and then advances a set of observations about the limitations of the evidence typically cited. Section three highlights the ethical implications (...) of the neuroscience argument for responsive early childcare. It argues that the neuroscience argument, first, fuels unwarranted parental anxiety by unduly raising the stakes of families’ early childcare choices and, second, threatens public confidence in developmental science’s potential to inform childcare practices and policy that enhance children’s health and well being. (shrink)
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been proposed as a potential treatment of drug addiction on the basis of its effects on drug self-administration in animals and on addictive behaviours in some humans treated with DBS for other psychiatric or neurological conditions. DBS is seen as a more reversible intervention than ablative neurosurgery but it is nonetheless a treatment that carries significant risks. A review of preclinical and clinical evidence for the use of DBS to treat addiction suggests that more animal (...) research is required to establish the safety and efficacy of the technology and to identify optimal treatment parameters before investigating its use in addicted persons. Severely addicted persons who try and fail to achieve abstinence may, however, be desperate enough to undergo such an invasive treatment if they believe that it will cure their addiction. History shows that the desperation for a cure of addiction can lead to the use of risky medical procedures before they have been rigorously tested. In the event that DBS is used in the treatment of addiction, we provide minimum ethical requirements for clinical trials of its use in the treatment of addiction. These include: restrictions of trials to severely intractable cases of addiction; independent oversight to ensure that patients have the capacity to consent and give that consent on the basis of a realistic appreciation of the potential benefits and risks of DBS; and rigorous assessments of the effectiveness and safety of this treatment compared to the best available treatments for addiction. (shrink)
Research ethics and the measures deployed to ensure ethical oversight of research (e.g., informed consent forms, ethics review) are vested with extremely important ethical and practical goals. Accordingly, these measures need to function effectively in real-world research and to follow high level standards.
Response Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11673-010-9255-1 Authors Cynthia Forlini, Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, 110, ave des Pins Ouest, Montréal, QC Canada H2W 1R7 Eric Racine, Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, 110, ave des Pins Ouest, Montréal, QC Canada H2W 1R7 Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529 Journal Volume Volume 7 Journal Issue Volume 7, Number 4.
The prospects of enhancing cognitive or motor functions using neuroscience in otherwise healthy individuals has attracted considerable attention and interest in neuroethics (Farah et al., Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5:421–425, 2004; Glannon Journal of Medical Ethics 32:74–78, 2006). The use of stimulants is one of the areas which has propelled the discussion on the potential for neuroscience to yield cognition-enhancing products. However, we have found in our review of the literature that the paradigms used to discuss the non-medical use of stimulant (...) drugs prescribed for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) vary considerably. In this brief communication, we identify three common paradigms—prescription drug abuse, cognitive enhancement, and lifestyle use of pharmaceuticals—and briefly highlight how divergences between paradigms create important “ethics blind spots”. (shrink)
There is substantial evidence that methylphenidate (MPH; Ritalin), is being used by healthy university students for non-medical motives such as the improvement of concentration, alertness, and academic performance. The scope and potential consequences of the non-medical use of MPH upon healthcare and society bring about many points of view.
There is mounting evidence that methylphenidate (MPH; Ritalin) is being used by healthy college students to improve concentration, alertness, and academic performance. One of the key concerns associated with such use of pharmaceuticals is the degree of freedom individuals have to engage in or abstain from cognitive enhancement (CE). From a pragmatic perspective, careful examination of the ethics of acts and contexts in which they arise includes considering coercion and social pressures to enhance cognition. We were interested in understanding how (...) university students, parents of university students, and healthcare providers viewed autonomy and coercion in CE using MPH. We found that perspectives converged on the belief that CE is a matter of personal and individual choice. Perspectives also converged on the existence of tremendous social pressures to perform and succeed. Parents emphasized personal responsibility and accountability for CE choices, and expressed feelings of worry, sadness and fear about CE. Students emphasized the importance of personal integrity in CE, expressed tolerance for personal choices of others, and highlighted the challenge that CE poses to maintaining one’s personal integrity. Healthcare providers emphasized the health consequences of CE. These results illustrate: (1) the importance of understanding how context is viewed in relation to perspectives on autonomous choice; (2) the limitations of individualistic libertarian approaches that do not consider social context; and (3) the ethical implications of public health interventions in a value-laden debate where perspectives diverge. (shrink)
The contribution of healthcare ethics committee (HEC) members to HECs is fundamental. However, little is known about how HEC members view clinical ethics. We report results from a qualitative study of the moral psychology of HEC members. We found that contrary to the existing Kohlberg-based studies, HEC members hold a pragmatic non-expert view of clinical ethics based mainly on respect for persons and a commitment to the patient’s good. In general, HEC members hold deflationary views regarding moral theory. Ethical principles (...) are not abstract foundations but the expression of moral commitments to patients that pre-exist awareness of moral theory. Emotions and proximity to patient sufferance fundamentally shape the views of HEC members on clinical ethics. Further work at the intersection of clinical ethics and qualitative research could bring to the foreground lay perspectives on moral problems that may differ from bioethics expert views. (shrink)
From a twenty-first century partnership between bioethics and neuroscience, the modern field of neuroethics is emerging, and technologies enabling functional neuroimaging with unprecedented sensitivity have brought new ethical, social and legal issues to the forefront. Some issues, akin to those surrounding modern genetics, raise critical questions regarding prediction of disease, privacy and identity. However, with new and still-evolving insights into our neurobiology and previously unquantifiable features of profoundly personal behaviors such as social attitude, value and moral agency, the difficulty of (...) carefully and properly interpreting the relationship between brain findings and our own self-concept is unprecedented. Therefore, while the ethics of genetics provides a legitimate starting point - even a backbone - for tackling ethical issues in neuroimaging, they do not suffice. Drawing on recent neuroimaging findings and their plausible real-world applications, we argue that interpretation of neuroimaging data is a key epistemological and ethical challenge. This challenge is two-fold. First, at the scientific level, the sheer complexity of neuroscience research poses challenges for integration of knowledge and meaningful interpretation of data. Second, at the social and cultural level, we find that interpretations of imaging studies are bound by cultural and anthropological frameworks. In particular, the introduction of concepts of self and personhood in neuroimaging illustrates the interaction of interpretation levels and is a major reason why ethical reflection on genetics will only partially help settle neuroethical issues. Indeed, ethical interpretation of such findings will necessitate not only traditional bioethical input but also a wider perspective on the construction of scientific knowledge. (shrink)