Neurolaw News

A collection of snippets from the inter webs on NeuroLaw:

For those interested in the topic of NeuroLaw I recommend David Eaglemont’s Initiative on Neuroscience and the Law as well as to check out the posts on the topic over at my old blog.


Health, Medicine and Bioethics News: Gene Patents, HIV testing and Forcing Parents to Vaccinate their Kids

So, I’m thinking of starting a separate blog devoted entirely to health law, medicine and bioethics – but until then here are some news bits from the cyberspace:

  • An Australian Federal Court has upheld a patent on the BRCA1 gene  linked to breast cancer. Despite Australia having laws against patenting naturally occurring processes., the court took the view that the isolation of the BRCA1 gene was a process of manufacture.   This is of considerable concern to researchers in the medical community.
  • For those who like reading cases (you sick bastards) here is a doozy which sprung from a claim by the partner of a man who tested positive for HIV, who later ended up contracting the virus. The actual claim by the partner against the doctors who conducted the original tests settled out of court, but fall out led to several cross-claims and disputes about degree of liability (case name: Idameneo (No 123) Pty Ltd v Dr Colin Gross [2012] NSWCA 423).


  • Another interesting case from last year is  Kingsford & Kingsford [2012] FamCA 889 – which determined whether the Family Court could order a mother to vaccinate her child. 

High Court of Ireland Rules Assisted Suicide Ban Constitutional, Human Rights Compatible

The High Court challenge in Ireland on the constitutionality and human rights compatibility of the country’s ban on assisted suicide has found in favour of the existing law, Key to the judgment (found here) was the finding that the ban did not amount to a disproportionate interference with personal autonomy. Also of interest were the comments that unlike with UK laws, the Irish Director of Prosecutions would not be able to change the law merely by changing guidelines in regard to prosecution – as this would result in the law not being enforced.

Elective Non-Therapeutic Intensive Care To Aid Organ Donation

… and now for something completely different. Two  recent articles in the Journal of Medical Ethics have presented a novel suggestion to aid in the preservation of organs for donation via elective non therapeutic ventilation (“EV”).

We are all aware of the use of ventilation when somebody is unable to sustain their own breathing within an intensive care setting, however EV differs significantly and is performed  when a person is either on their way toward irretrievable brain death (but still capable of breathing)  or as soon as possible after formal  declaration of death.

This is an ‘elective’ procedure because it requires the patients full consent before any decrease in cognitive capacity or death.

The many ethical conundrums raised by this procedure include:

  • ensuring full consent of the patient;
  • the risk of the patient surviving in an unacceptably bad state;
  • the possibility of changing our perception of organ donation and care in dying;
  •  the moral distress potentially caused to staff involved;
  • the dilemma between the duty to respect a dying patient’s autonomy and the duty not to harm  a patient; and
  • the possible harm caused to families/caregivers by undertaking the procedure. 

Check out the articles here and here.

**If you would like to see more articles here of a Medico-legal / Medical Ethics genre, let me know!

Preparing for ‘Mutant Soldiers’

A new report, released by The Greenwall Foundation looks at  the risk, ethics and policy issues arising out of “military human enhancements” — including drugs, special nutrition, electroshock, gene therapy and robotic implants and prostheses. The report looks at the potential harms to soldiers themselves, as well as the potential diplomatic fall out of use of such technology – including the violation of international treaties on ‘biological weapons’.  (via War Is Boring)

A Philosophical Critique of the DSM IV

Given our  growing reliance on the psychological/medical  profession to  help us live more fruitful lives and to define what counts as aberrant, ‘ill’ or unnatural thoughts and behaviour, this telling (if a bit, colloquial) critique of the Diagnostic Manual for Mental Disorders “DSM IV”  by Patrick Singy is a relevant and interesting read.

Defining ‘Death’

When is the right time to declare someone clinically ‘dead’? Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, in a new book, states that current definition of ‘death’ used in Victorian hospitals is at odds with community expectations, he told The Age:

“A new standard has taken hold in intensive care units in which the crucial aspect is absence of consciousness”

Clinically, his means that death can be declared even when the mid-brain and other ‘basic’ regions of the brain are still functioning – ensuring blood flow,  and other basic signs of life (although not breathing).

Spokespeople for the clinical criteria stated that the definition preferred by Toni-Filippini – total loss of brain function  determined by blood flow- was unsubstantiated, illogically strict and would put patients in need of organ donation at risk.