Aside from the common problems of reliability and general acceptance in the scientific and legal field… which are issues with any new technology…there is another problem with using fMRI as a lie detector in the courts that is often ignored by brain porn skeptics that is perhaps the easiest to explain:
Defendants cannot be forced to testify against themselves — the Fifth Amendment. So the legal and ethical question here is: If the police put you into a machine that’s reading your mind, are you being forced to testify against yourself? At present, a person can be forced to surrender DNA. Is an f.M.R.I. scan the same thing? - Dr. Matthew Liao, neuroethicist. [via]
[Giving] rise to the question of the free will to do evil: Advances in neuroscience may result in a device that makes it impossible for a person to complete a particular action; say murder or rape. The use of such a device would require careful thought and ethical review. Do we have the right to remove the ability to make a choice, even a wrong choice from another person?
As you may know: one of our favorites, Neuroskeptic posted today about Adam Kolber’s recent comment paper for Nature about memory erasing/dampening drugs. You remember him from the Neuroethics and Law Blog.
Kolber starts off with his comment, which is behind Nature’s pay wall… so we have this:
A comment I wrote for Nature entitled, “Give Memory-Altering Drugs a Chance,” was published today. I fought hard to have the paper available free on the Internet, but in the end, I lost the battle. You can find my other papers on the topic here, here, and here. via
So give those a look. Then we have Neuroskeptic who (I’m glad wrote about this) questions the example used in the comment of how memory erasing drugs could benefit a rescue worker and he offers that a trauma victim would have been a more apt candidate, on the basis that:
A rescue worker, at least a professional one, has chosen to do that kind of work. The experiences that are part of that job are ones they decided to have - or at least that they knew were a realistic possibility - and that may be an expression of their identity. via
Great point, though I question to what extend do forgetfulness drugs effect identity/personality and future choices, wouldn’t that depend on if we are talking actual erasing or weakening memories? Anyhoo, Kolber acknowledged, answered and expanded upon the critique here:
…just as one can choose to be a rescue worker and make it part of one’s identity, can’t one change his mind? Can’t someone decide that even though he thought he was cut out for this line of work, in fact, he failed to anticipate its psychological toll in some instance?
If you’ve read this far, you should really read the entire exchange. It’s is a fascinating topic providing interesting chasms on many levels (science, law, ethics, philosophy/self, medical, policy, etc…) and having two of my favorites discuss it today doesn’t hurt either.