Is Virtually Everything Possible? The Relevance of Ethics and Human Rights for Introducing Extended Reality in Forensic Psychiatry

American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 13 (3):144-157 (2022)
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Extended Reality (XR) systems, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), provide a digital simulation either of a complete environment, or of particular objects within the real world. Today, XR is used in a wide variety of settings, including gaming, design, engineering, and the military. In addition, XR has been introduced into psychology, cognitive sciences and biomedicine for both basic research as well as diagnosing or treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. In the context of XR, the simulated ‘reality’ can be controlled and people may safely learn to cope with their feelings and behavior. XR also enables to simulate environments that cannot easily be accessed or created otherwise. Therefore, Extended Reality systems are thought to be a promising tool in the resocialization of criminal offenders, more specifically for purposes of risk assessment and treatment of forensic patients. Employing XR in forensic settings raises ethical and legal intricacies which are not raised in case of most other healthcare applications. Whereas a variety of normative issues of XR have been discussed in the context of medicine and consumer usage, the debate on XR in forensic settings is, as yet, straggling. By discussing two general arguments in favor of employing XR in criminal justice, and two arguments calling for caution in this regard, the present paper aims to broaden the current ethical and legal debate on XR applications to their use in the resocialization of criminal offenders, mainly focusing on forensic patients.



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Author Profiles

Gerben Meynen
VU University Amsterdam
Philipp Kellmeyer
Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg