Neurolaws: Legal and Ethical Issues

According to Biomedcentral, the four laws of neurotechnology are as follows: (1) right to cognitive liberty; (2) right to mental privacy; (3) right to mental integrity; and (4) right to psychological continuity. We’ve discussed some of the legal and ethical issues related to neurotechnology laws in previous articles. Today, our plan is to discuss neurolaws and evaluate the legal and ethical issues.

What are neuroscientists doing at this time?

Neurotechnology is on the verge of expansion especially since there more interest on the topic by the medical and technology sectors. Neuroscientists have thought about the possibilities of connecting electronic devices such as electrodes to the brain and analyzing the information. Now, it has become a tangible possibility due to the expansion of science and information technology which allow structural measures, neural activity and connectivity, molecular composition, and genomic variation of the brain. These abilities have been made easier by exponential advances in computational ability, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and development of sophisticated databases. Neurotechnology can predict a person’s danger level, probability to recidivate, evaluate intent, evaluate competence to stand trial, reveal biological mitigating factors that could explain criminal behavior, distinguish chronic pain from malingering, regain lost memory, and differentiate between true and false memories.

These new advancements will face legal and ethical issues such as privacy and security of the brain’s information. Now, if all goes as planned, law enforcement agencies can reveal the criminal’s mental state, determine the ability for self-control, and predict future behaviors. In addition, the court would be able to determine juror or witness bias, uncover lies, and determine intentional conduct by evaluating mental states. For example, polygraph uses neurotechnology by reviewing the autonomic nervous system to determine if someone is telling the truth. Polygraph uses older technology by analyzing skin conductance, pulse, and breathing rate. However, new technologies can evaluate the central nervous system which is more complicated. So, decoding the brain and analyzing its data need specific rules and regulations.

What are the current privacy and data protection laws?

The United States has promulgated privacy and data protection laws which are designed to protect consumers and prosecute the violators. These laws include HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, GLBA, ECPA, COPPA, and VPPA. However, no government currently regulates brain information directly under these laws. It is arguable that brain information (i.e., data that is extracted from connecting an electronic device to the brain) is considered “personal information” that is subject to privacy and protection. In fact, no brain information should be accessible without a proper warrant or else it cannot be admitted as evidence in court. Therefore, so called “neurolaws” should be passed by legislators that specifically protect basic human rights. Well, needless to say, brain information is part of a human’s private sphere and should not be wrongfully accessed, influenced, or manipulated by anyone.

In summary, neurotechnology can be helpful in many aspects. For example, it can help determine a person’s mental capacity to enter contracts or evaluate the level of a plaintiff’s emotional distress in litigation. However, if it’s misused for any reason, it can become a disaster.

Our neurotechnology lawyers have been prosecuting and defending legal actions in state and federal courts and are available to speak with clients. Our law firm assists clients in matters related to neurolaws, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and privacy. Please contact our law firm to speak with an neurotechnology attorney at your earliest convenience.