NEUROETHICS: Transforming Medical Ethics

Neuroethics is a budding field that has opened up many questions leading to innumerable studies revolving around the human brain and the central nervous system. There isn't any specific origin story for the rise of this field but it all started with a biotechnological revolution in Greece, after the first half of the twentieth century. Thereafter, bioethics burst forth, imposed itself and spread with unstoppable force. However, despite the numerous investigations dedicated to its genesis—medical, legal, economic, historical, philosophical, there has not yet been a satisfactory elucidation of the motives that provoked this revolution and discomposed the way in which medicine is practised. Bioethics conducts in the same pattern as neuroethics and as this field advances and the study shifted from animals to humans proving that it is the gene where the ultimate truth lies.

In May 2002, 150 biologists, neuroscientists, physicians, lawyers, psychologists, and sociologists met in San Francisco and proclaimed in the words of the journalist and organizer 'William Safire' that neuroethics had been born and it was characterized as “the study of ethical, legal and social questions that emerge when scientific discoveries about the brain led to medical practices, legal interpretations and health and social policies.”

What is it?

Neuroethics arises from the field of neuroscience, as the work suggests it studies the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience. It highlights the obvious and the not-so-obvious ways of how our own moral thinking affects our moral views. These issues lead us beyond the boundaries of bioethics and into the philosophy of mind, psychology, theology, law, and neuroscience itself. It is this larger set of issues that has earned it a name of its own.

How does it work

As a neurotechnological driven field that concerns the questions of ethics, it examines the philosophical issues and outgrowing understanding into how brains give rise to the people that we are and the social structures that we inhabit and create. These questions are intimately bound up with scientific questions about what types of knowledge can be acquired with particular techniques: what are the scope and limitations of what a technique can tell us? With many new techniques, answers to these questions are obscure not only to the lay public but often to the scientists themselves. The uncertainty about the reach of these technologies adds to the challenge of grappling with the ethical issues raised.

Some of the much studied and researched subsets of this field are issues of cognitive enhancement, drugs, interventions that affect a person’s identity; brain privacy; and the neural basis of morality, or 'moral cognition'. Another field is understanding the neurobiology of decision making; that itself is not per se neuroethics, but as it gets applied to areas such as marketing, it begins to touch on ethical concerns. Let us discuss a few below.

Moral Cognition

Moral cognition interprets how our brain chooses between what's moral and what's immoral. Researchers who study moral cognition attempt to provide social and biological explanations for how our brains process information and make moral or immoral choices. Some scientists examine genetic and molecular influences, while others use neuroimaging to map the areas of the brain that direct people’s choices. So the aim here is not to determine what choices people make, it is to study how the choices they make are moral.

Neurobiology / Decision Making

It's the philosophical science behind the functioning of brains working, it researches in great depth and studies the interaction between the brain's components. Each region of the brain affects a different area of behavior and neurobiology aims to understand these behaviors and the connection to different parts of the brain. Neuroscientific studies have identified the role of the frontal lobe in contributing to personality, emotions, judgment, problem solving, abstract thought, attention, and planning.

Neurobiology enhances our conception of ourselves as having will, agency, authorship, and real options. Brands today use neurobiology to make your brain deliberate that it's your free will because of which you are making the decision of spending your money on that brand. Cleverly placed and targeted advertisements deceive the customer's will and manipulate them into buying their products. Neuroethics can sometimes tend to repeat the insufficiencies of the neuropsychological sciences which were born in laboratories of the early twentieth century, programs that were full of hope and ideals but ended in unfulfilled expectations because of lack of meditative thinking.

To transform medical ethics into scientific neuroethics, it is essential to review its metaphysical basis which is the basis of a new age of thinking and thus avoid confusing, mixing and dissolving the data with that thereby allowing and making it possible that the data appears. Taking all the findings and ideas together we see that the conceptual scheme of neuroethics arises from the multiple views of neuroscience such as bioethics, medical ethics, philosophy of mind and so on. And the goal of neuroethics is to consider a lifelong relationship between ethics and neuroscience with the objective of enhancing ethical neuroscience involving human subjects.

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