Regulating brain imaging: Questions of privacy, informed consent, and human dignity
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Authors: Brownsword, R.
© Oxford University Press, 2012. All rights reserved. With the development of powerful new brain imaging technologies researchers have a window into the brains and, possibly, into a deeper understanding of the mental lives of their participants. Regulators will be challenged to set legitimate standards for the research, development, and application of these technologies. Alarmists will caution that, when brain imaging technologies can penetrate the gloom of our innermost thoughts, the last vestige of privacy and human dignity will have gone. What are regulators going to do about this? One response to the privacy concern is that: provided that regulators enforce the usual privacy standards in conjunction with the appropriate requirements for informed consent, brain imaging technologies give rise to no particular cause for concern. This chapter seeks to underline the rather obvious point that this reassuring view ignores at its peril the contested ground (legally and ethically) that is occupied by the notions of privacy and informed consent. However, it also wants to place these issues in the context of the larger project of setting the right kind of regulatory environment for emerging technologies. The first part of the chapter sketches the challenges involved in the larger project of setting the right kind of regulatory environment. The second part draws out the implications of regulators adopting a strategy that is reliant on the latest technologies in order to channel the conduct of their regulates.