eCite Digital Repository

Deep brain stimulation through the “lens of agency”: clarifying threats to personal identity from neurological intervention


Goddard, E, Deep brain stimulation through the 'lens of agency': clarifying threats to personal identity from neurological intervention, Neuroethics, 10, (3) pp. 325-335. ISSN 1874-5490 (2017) [Refereed Article]

PDF (Proofs)

Copyright Statement

Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

DOI: doi:10.1007/s12152-016-9297-0


This paper explores the impacts of neurological intervention on selfhood with reference to recipients’ claims about changes to their self­-understanding following Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. In the neuroethics literature, patients’ claims such as: "I don’t feel like myself anymore" and "I feel like a machine", are often understood as expressing threats to identity. In this paper I argue that framing debates in terms of a possible threat to identity ­ whether for or against the proposition, is mistaken and occludes what is ethically salient in changes from DBS. Rather, by adopting a relational narrative approach to identity and autonomy, I show that the ethically salient issue from DBS is impacts on autonomous agency ­ whether one’s actions and beliefs are one’s own, and how DBS may hinder, or foster, embodied, relational autonomy competences. This approach recognizes that if sufficiently significant, impacts on autonomy competences may pose a threat to one’s ability to contribute to the process of authoring one’s own life and so pose a threat to identity formation. I argue this approach resolves the confusion in the literature about whether and how DBS threatens identity and provides a complex picture of how DBS may affect selfhood by disrupting narrative identity formation and revision, distorting agency and/or undermining autonomy.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:personal identity, autonomy, deep brain stimulation, DBS, agency, authenticity
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:Applied ethics
Research Field:Bioethics
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies
UTAS Author:Goddard, E (Dr Eliza Goddard)
ID Code:113293
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:20
Deposited By:College Office - CALE
Deposited On:2016-12-20
Last Modified:2018-05-18
Downloads:78 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page