Iconic Law Cases Revisited at the International Neuroethics Society Meeting

The 2011 Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society is coming up on November 10 and 11 at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. and I think it's going to be a terrific meeting. I particularly want to draw your attention to the law panel, scheduled for 2:45 to 4:00 on Friday, November 11. This panel will focus on neuroscience in real cases. We've got three speakers, each of whom was involved as a professional in one of the iconic cases involving law and neuroscience.

Steve Greenberg is the lawyer who introduced fMRI evidence of psychopathy into a capital sentencing case (the Dugan case in Illinois). There's a fascinating write-up of that case in Nature magazine

Houston Gordon is the lawyer who tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce for the defense some fMRI lie detection evidence (from Cephos, one of the two companies in this market) into a federal criminal trial. This led to a two-day evidentiary hearing and an extensive written opinion (United States v. Semrau, in Westlaw or Lexis).

Russell Swerdlow is a neurologist who was the treating physician for a man who pleaded guilty to the sexual molestation of his 12 year old stepdaughter after a year or so of increasing interest in pornography. Just before sentencing, the man was found to have a tumor the size of a chicken egg pressing on his left frontal lobe. When the tumor was removed, the defendant reported that his urges disappeared. He was released on probation; about 10 months later, his urges returned. So had the tumor. When the tumor was surgical removed again, so were the urges. See the case report at 60 Arch. Neurol. 437 (2003) (PDF).

Each speaker will briefly present his thoughts on the case and then participate in a question and answer period. This kind of chance to question people involved in seminal cases is rare; I think that, at least for those of us interested in law and neuroscience, it should be fascinating. Oh – and there are also a lot of other great panels and speakers on the program, including a panel on neuroscience and national security, a panel on novel treatments in neuropsychiatry, and a talk by Michael Chorost (great speaker) on neurotechnologies and humanity. (His first book, "Rebuilt: How Being Part Computer Made Me More Human," is about his own cochlear implant; I highly recommend it. He has a new book that I haven't read yet.)

–Henry T. Greely, J.D., director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School and executive committee member of the International Neuroethics Society

Professor Greely has written and been featured in several neuroethics articles for the Dana Foundation. A sampling:

Enhancing Brains: What Are We Afraid Of?
Lie Detection Services Remain Premature, Neuroethicists Say
The Ethics of Forensic Neuroscience: Neuroethics Q&A: Hank Greely
Seeking More Goodly Creatures

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