Research Fellow and Manager of Visitors Programmes
Jonathan Pugh is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Applied Moral Philosophy at The University of Oxford, and Manager of Visitors Programmes for the Oxford Uehiro Centre. He is currently leading a Wellcome Trust funded project entitled "The Ethics of Novel Therapeutic Applications of Deep Brain Stimulation". His research interests lie primarily in issues concerning personal autonomy in practical ethics, particularly topics pertaining to informed consent. He has also written on the ethics of human embryonic stem cell research, criminal justice, human enhancement, and gene-editing.
Deep brain stimulation and revising the Mental Health Act: the case for intervention-specific safeguards.
Pugh, J, Aziz, T, Herring, J, Savulescu, J
Br J Psychiatry
Under the current Mental Health Act of England and Wales, it is lawful to perform deep brain stimulation in the absence of consent and independent approval. We argue against the Care Quality Commission's preferred strategy of addressing this problematic issue, and offer recommendations for deep brain stimulation-specific provisions in a revised Mental Health Act.Declaration of interestT.A. is a paid consultant for Boston Scientific, Medtronic and St. Jude Medical. He has received honoraria from Abbott, Boston and Medtronics and served as consultant to all three.
Mental Health Act, deep brain stimulation, medical ethics, mental capacity, mental health law
Evidence-Based Neuroethics, Deep Brain Stimulation and Personality - Deflating, But Not Bursting, The Bubble
Heroin use poses a significant health and economic burden to society, and individuals with heroin dependence are responsible for a significant amount of crime. Owing to its efficacy and cost-effectiveness, methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) is offered as an optional alternative to imprisonment for drug offenders in several jurisdictions. Some object to such 'MMT offers' on the basis that they involve coercion and thus invalidate the offender's consent to MMT. While we find these arguments unpersuasive, we do not attempt to build a case against them here. Instead, we explore whether administration of MMT following acceptance of an MMT offer might be permissible even on the assumption that MMT offers are coercive, and in such a way that the resulting MMT is non-consensual. We argue that non-consensual MMT following an MMT offer is typically permissible. We first offer empirical evidence to demonstrate the substantial benefits to the offender and society of implementing non-consensual MMT in the criminal justice system. We then explore and respond to potential objections to such uses of MMT. These appeal respectively to harm, autonomy, bodily and mental interference, and penal theoretic considerations. Finally, we introduce and dismiss a potential response to our argument that takes a revisionist position, rejecting prevailing incarceration practices.
Unexpected Complications of Novel Deep Brain Stimulation Treatments: Ethical Issues and Clinical Recommendations.
BACKGROUND: Innovative neurosurgical treatments present a number of known risks, the natures and probabilities of which can be adequately communicated to patients via the standard procedures governing obtaining informed consent. However, due to their novelty, these treatments also come with unknown risks, which require an augmented approach to obtaining informed consent. OBJECTIVE: This paper aims to discuss and provide concrete procedural guidance on the ethical issues raised by serious unexpected complications of novel deep brain stimulation treatments. APPROACH: We illustrate our analysis using a case study of the unexpected development of recurrent stereotyped events in patients following the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat severe chronic pain. Examining these unexpected complications in light of medical ethical principles, we argue that serious complications of novel DBS treatments do not necessarily make it unethical to offer the intervention to eligible patients. However, the difficulty the clinician faces in determining whether the intervention is in the patient's best interests generates reasons to take extra steps to promote the autonomous decision making of these patients. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS: We conclude with clinical recommendations, including details of an augmented consent process for novel DBS treatment.
Chronic pain, complications, consent, deep brain stimulation, seizures, Chronic Pain, Decision Making, Deep Brain Stimulation, Humans
Brainjacking in deep brain stimulation and autonomy.
Pugh, J, Pycroft, L, Sandberg, A, Aziz, T, Savulescu, J
Ethics Inf Technol
'Brainjacking' refers to the exercise of unauthorized control of another's electronic brain implant. Whilst the possibility of hacking a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) has already been proven in both experimental and real-life settings, there is reason to believe that it will soon be possible to interfere with the software settings of the Implanted Pulse Generators (IPGs) that play a central role in Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) systems. Whilst brainjacking raises ethical concerns pertaining to privacy and physical or psychological harm, we claim that the possibility of brainjacking DBS raises particularly profound concerns about individual autonomy, since the possibility of hacking such devices raises the prospect of third parties exerting influence over the neural circuits underpinning the subject's cognitive, emotional and motivational states. However, although it seems natural to assume that brainjacking represents a profound threat to individual autonomy, we suggest that the implications of brainjacking for individual autonomy are complicated by the fact that technologies targeted by brainjacking often serve to enhance certain aspects of the user's autonomy. The difficulty of ascertaining the implications of brainjacking DBS for individual autonomy is exacerbated by the varied understandings of autonomy in the neuroethical and philosophical literature. In this paper, we seek to bring some conceptual clarity to this area by mapping out some of the prominent views concerning the different dimension of autonomous agency, and the implications of brainjacking DBS for each dimension. Drawing on three hypothetical case studies, we show that there could plausibly be some circumstances in which brainjacking could potentially be carried out in ways that could serve to enhance certain dimensions of the target's autonomy. Our analysis raises further questions about the power, scope, and necessity of obtaining prior consent in seeking to protect patient autonomy when directly interfering with their neural states, in particular in the context of self-regulating closed-loop stimulation devices.
Autonomy, Brainjacking, Deep brain stimulation, Responsibility, Security