Neural devices have the capacity to enable users to regain abilities lost due to disease or injury – for instance, a deep brain stimulator (DBS) that allows a person with Parkinson’s disease to regain the ability to fluently perform movements or a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) that enables a person with spinal cord injury to control a robotic arm. While users recognize and appreciate the technologies’ capacity to maintain or restore their capabilities, the neuroethics literature is replete with examples of (...) concerns expressed about agentive capacities: A perceived lack of control over the movement of a robotic arm might result in an altered sense of feeling responsible for that movement. Clinicians or researchers being able to record and access detailed information of a person’s brain might raise privacy concerns. A disconnect between previous, current, and future understandings of the self might result in a sense of alienation. The ability to receive and interpret sensory feedback might change whether someone trusts the implanted device or themselves. Inquiries into the nature of these concerns and how to mitigate them has produced scholarship that often emphasizes one issue – responsibility, privacy, authenticity, or trust – selectively. However, we believe that examining these ethical dimensions separately fails to capture a key aspect of the experience of living with a neural device. In exploring their interrelations, we argue that their mutual significance for neuroethical research can be adequately captured if they are described under a unified heading of agency. On these grounds, we propose an “Agency Map” which brings together the diverse neuroethical dimensions and their interrelations into a comprehensive framework. With this, we offer a theoretically-grounded approach to understanding how these various dimensions are interwoven in an individual’s experience of agency. (shrink)
A 2011 National Academies of Sciences report called for an “Information Commons” and a “Knowledge Network” to revolutionize biomedical research and clinical care. We interviewed 41 expert stakeholders to examine governance, access, data collection, and privacy in the context of a medical information commons. Stakeholders' attitudes about MICs align with the NAS vision of an Information Commons; however, differences of opinion regarding clinical use and access warrant further research to explore policy and technological solutions.
Implantable neurotechnology devices such as Brain Computer Interfaces and Deep Brain Stimulators are an increasing part of treating or exploring potential treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. While only a few devices are approved, many promising prospects for future devices are under investigation. The decision to participate in a clinical trial can be challenging, given a variety of risks to be taken into consideration. During the consent process, prospective participants might lack the language to consider those risks, feel unprepared, or (...) simply not know what questions to ask. One tool to help empower participants to play a more active role during the consent process is a Question Prompt List. QPLs are communication tools that can prompt participants and patients to articulate potential concerns. They offer a structured list of disease, treatment, or research intervention-specific questions that research participants can use as support for question asking. While QPLs have been studied as tools for improving the consent process during cancer treatment, in this paper, we suggest they would be helpful in neurotechnology research, and offer an example of a QPL as a template for an informed consent tool in neurotechnology device trials. (shrink)
Advances in technologies and biomedical informatics have expanded capacity to generate and share biomedical data. With a lens on genomic data, we present a typology characterizing the data-sharing landscape in biomedical research to advance understanding of the key stakeholders and existing data-sharing practices. The typology highlights the diversity of data-sharing efforts and facilitators and reveals how novel data-sharing efforts are challenging existing norms regarding the role of individuals whom the data describe.
Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) face many difficult, timing-sensitive decisions over the course of their illness, weighing present versus future harms and benefits. Supplemented by interviews with people with ALS, we argue for a relational approach to understanding these decisions and their effects on identity. We highlight two critical aspects of the patient–caregiver relationship: (1) the extent to which each may rely on the other leaves their wellbeing intimately intertwined and (2) patients often require others to help with the (...) imaginative task of considering possible futures for each therapeutic option. We show why family involvement in decisionmaking practices can be so critical, and shed light on the ways intimate others help preserve and protect people’s identities amidst the destabilizing uncertainty illness and treatment can bring. (shrink)