Today the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) dives into several of the complex ethical and societal implications of neuroscience research and its applications. Today’s agenda includes sessions on cognitive enhancement, direct-to-consumer neurotechnology, clinical innovation through neuroscience research, and capacity to consent research.
President Obama requested that the Bioethics Commission review the ethical considerations of neuroscience research and its application as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Specifically he asked the Commission to “identify proactively a set of core ethical standards – both to guide neuroscience research and to address some of the ethical dilemmas that may be raised by the application of neuroscience research findings.”
This spring, the Bioethics Commission released the first volume of its two volume report it plans in response to the President’s charge: Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Gray Matters, Vol. 1). In it the Bioethics Commission recommended integrating ethics explicitly and systematically into neuroscience research across the life of a research endeavor.
In Vol. 2 the Bioethics Commission will consider the ethical and societal implications of neuroscience research and its applications more broadly. The Commission will examine implications that scientists, ethicists, educators, private funders, and the public should be prepared to handle, such as the four topics under consideration today.
“Through our discussions and deliberations to date, we have focused on several specific topics – both because of their heightened relief in the neuroscience context and because of the complex ethical issues that they raise. We will explore a number of those topics in more depth today,” said Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Chair of the Bioethics Commission, as she opened the Commission’s public meeting today.
Throughout the day the Bioethics Commission will hear from experts including: Peter Reiner, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of British Columbia; Rear Admiral Peter J. Delany, Ph.D., LCSW-C, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Adrian Raine, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania; Nick Bostrom, Ph.D., University of Oxford; John Reppas, M.D., Ph.D., Neurotechnology Industry Organization; Carlos Peña, Ph.D., M.S., U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Freddie Ann Hoffman, M.D., formerly of U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Deven McGraw, J.D., M.P.H., LL.M., Healthcare practice of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP; Steven L. Small, Ph.D., M.D., University of California, Irvine; Paul J. Ford, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University; Helen Mayberg, M.D., Emory University School of Medicine; Jerry Menikoff, M.D., J.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Paul S. Appelbaum, M.D., Columbia University.
The Bioethics Commission has held six previous public meetings on neuroscience and, in addition to today’s meeting in Washington, has at least one more meeting to address the topic scheduled for November. The Bioethics Commission’s process is well underway toward developing recommendations to fully respond to the President’s request.