A recap on Italian neurolaw: epistemological and ethical issues

Mind and Society 16 (1-2):17-35 (2017)
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Abstract

Italy is in the forefront of forensic neuroscience practice among European nations. In recent years, the country presented two major criminal cases, the Trieste Case in 2009 and the Como Case in 2011, which were the first cases employing neurogenetic and functional neuroimaging methods in European courts. In this paper we will discuss the consequences that an understanding of the neural and genetic determinants of human (mis)behavior will have on law, especially on the Italian legal context. Some claim that such consequences will actually be revolutionary, while others argue that legal doctrine assumptions won’t be undermined by neuroscientific findings. In the first section of the paper, we introduce the general debate and follow with a section devoted to the two Italian cases. In the third and final section, we discuss epistemological and ethical issues regarding Italian neurolaw. We defend a position which diverges from those prevailing in the debate. While negative outcomes and concerns were usually evidenced, we focus on positive changes coming with the new paradigm of interaction between neuroscience and the law. Our view is that these cases are clearly pioneering ones, anticipating what will happen in the courtrooms of the European Union in the whole, in the near future.

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Elisabetta Sirgiovanni
Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza

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