Is there a moral obligation to develop brain implants involving NanoBionic technologies? Ethical issues for clinical trials
Gilbert, F and Dodds, S, Is there a moral obligation to develop brain implants involving NanoBionic technologies? Ethical issues for clinical trials, NanoEthics, 8, (1) pp. 49-56. ISSN 1871-4757 (2014) [Refereed Article]
In their article published in Nanoethics, "Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of Brain-Implants Using Nano-Scale Materials and Techniques", Berger et al. suggest that there may be a prima facie moral obligation to improve neuro implants with nanotechnology given their possible therapeutic advantages for patients [Nanoethics, 2:241–249]. Although we agree with Berger et al. that developments in nanomedicine hold the potential to render brain implant technologies less invasive and to better target neural stimulation to respond to brain impairments in the near future, we argue against presenting the development of nanobionic clinical devices in terms of a moral obligation to conduct this research. In the first part of the paper, we consider what a duty to pursue new technologies might mean, and in the second we explore some of the negative consequences of defending such development as a moral obligation based on potential benefit. We argue that promoting the advances available to brain implants through developments in nanotechnology and bionics could contribute to medical rhetoric that indirectly increases the risk of exposing patients to harm when participating in clinical trials. We argue that rather than there being a moral obligation to improve nanobionics implants because of their potential benefit, the pursuit of improved neuro implants must be balanced against the prima facie obligations to protect patients against harm and to promote and protect patient autonomy.
autonomy, clinical trials, brain implants, informed consent, medical rhetoric, moral obligation, nanobionics, nanotechnologies, right to withdraw