Neurotechnology device manufacturers should take legal and ethical issues into consideration when implementing microchips into a patient’s body. There are two methods being used at this time. First, is the “non-invasive” method where electrodes are inserted on the head’s surface as electrode caps which pick up electrical fields from the brain. So, the electrodes are not penetrating the patient’s body. Second, is the “invasive” method where the electrodes are placed inside the brain’s tissue which can be used to diagnose neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Neurotechnology raises important legal issues since the human brain is connected to an external device such as a computer. For instance, one question is whether the external device changes the human’s brain activity, and if so, what could be the potential consequences. Artificial intelligence will inevitably change the legal framework in the near future especially since it will be used in the human body. So, the issues of privacy and data security will always come up.
What are the major concerns?
Privacy is a major concern although it’s eventually dissipating the more we use and become dependent on technology. In fact, almost every software application out there has a disclaimer regarding the advertising and marketing of the user’s personal information. So, with that being said, the same guidelines apply to the use of neurotechnology especially if the external device (e.g., electrode, computer) is extracting confidential medical information. It is also possible to transfer the brain’s data to an external device and replay it on a smart device which is called whole brain emulation.
European organizations have promulgated strict rules and regulations when utilizing neurotechnology. In fact, the Centre for Ethics and Technology outlined “neuroethics” which consist of ethical, legal, and conceptual aspects of neuroscience and neurotechnology. It focuses on this subject since technology can now modify, influence, treat, or enhance the brain through neuropharmacology and neuroengineering.
What are the state and federal laws?
There are state and federal laws that are designed to protect an individual’s privacy rights in various aspects whether when it’s related to medical information or other types of confidential data. In 2013, President Obama unveiled the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (“BRAIN”) Initiative as a collaborative program to map the activity of every neuron in the human brain with a programmed total investment of more than $300 million per year over 10 years. In 2014, the California Legislature introduced the California Blueprint for Research to Advance Innovations in Neuroscience (“Cal-BRAIN”) Act (also referred to as SB-836) to leverage the state’s research assets and federal BRAIN Initiative’s funding opportunities to accelerate the development of brain mapping techniques. So, in essence, this proposed bill included neurotechnological advances that are being made today. Please refer to http://cal-brain.org for more information.
It’s important to note that uniform laws should be enacted in the state, federal, and international levels to properly guide manufacturers, suppliers, scientists, and technologists. They should also properly protect the consumers who are using these technologies in some manner. This is obviously a difficult task since it raises the issue of multi-jurisdictional uniformity when it comes to the promulgation of laws.
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