NeuroEthics: NeuroLaw

Stephen J. Morse, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

In Oxford Handbooks Online (February 2017).


This is a pre-copyedited version of a chapter in the Oxford Handbooks Online (Philosophy) edited by Sandy Goldberg. In altered form, it was published online in February, 2017 and can be found at the Oxford Handbooks Online website. The entry discusses whether the findings of the new neuroscience based largely on functional brain imaging raise new normative questions and entail normative conclusions for ethical and legal theory and practice. After reviewing the source of optimism about neuroscientific contributions and the current scientific status of neuroscience, it addresses a radical challenge neuroscience allegedly presents: whether neuroscience proves persons do not have agency. It then considers a series of discrete topics in neuroethics and neurolaw, including the “problem” of responsibility, enhancement of normal functioning, threats to civil liberty, competence, informed consent, end of life issues, and the ethics of caution. It suggests that the ethical and legal resources to respond to the findings of neuroscience already exist and will do so for the foreseeable future.