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Brain Scan Leads Experts to Ethical Debate

Brain scan issue leads experts to ethical debate in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, June 7, 2010.  Researchers have determined that brain scans, already utilized in U.S. death row trials, could potentially be used to exploit people's thoughts and preferences.  Delegates, neuroscientists, policy makers, and judges gathered to discuss ethical guidelines and standards of protections to ensure the rights of people vulnerable to brain scans.  

The two day event was founded by the Institute for Advanced Studies and organized by the Scottish Imaging Network (SINAPSE), the Scottish Futures Forum, the Institute for Advanced Studies, Strathclyde, and the University of Edinburgh.  Professor Hank Greely of Stanford University led a public lecture pertaining to the law and biomedical ethics On Monday, June 7, 2010.  SCRIPT Centre for Research In Intellectual Property and Technology at the University of Edinburgh speaker Burkhard Schafer contributed to the event and stated the concerns of many.  Schafer said "After data mining and online profiling, brain imaging could well become the next frontier in the privacy wars.  The promise to read a person's mind is beguiling, and some applications will be greatly beneficial.  But a combination of exaggerated claims by commercial providers, inadequate legal regulation, and the persuasive power of images brings very real dangers for us as citizens.  The task ahead is not just to ensure that the use of brain imaging in courts or by other decision makers is scientifically sound and reliable.  We also need to ensure that the law protects what is the innermost core of our privacy, our thoughts, deepest wishes and desires, from unwarranted intrusion."  Professor Joanna Wardlaw, of Applied Neuroimaging at the University of Edinburgh maintained "Brain imaging has emerged at astounding speed in the last decade and it is an extremely powerful method of finding out about how the brain works. But currently, once outside the medical or scientific arena, the use of imaging is completely unregulated."

Experts agree that brain scans are one of the most effective tools in diagnosing disease but warn that scans are so advanced they can often be used to tap into a subject's likes, dislikes, anxieties, fears, and may even pose health risks or cause unnecessary anxiety.


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