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Friday, October 18, 2002

Public Comments

CHAIRMAN KASS: If you would kindly stay at your seats while we have a public comment from the one person who has signed up, it's Wrye Sententia, who is the Director for the Center of Cognitive Liberty and Ethics.  I believe that's California; is that right?


CHAIRMAN KASS:  And you've come a long way and most welcome to you.  We look forward to your comment.

MS. SENTENTIA:  Thank you.

I just have a few brief comments that emphasize two main points, and I'd like to start by saying that any discussion of the ethics of treating or manipulating the mind or what some people are now calling neuroethics must begin by protecting the interiority of individuals' minds.

So our twofold principles are that, first, no one should be forced to use drugs or mind technologies against their will, and second, that no one should be denied access or criminalized for their use.

The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics is a nonprofit, education, law, and policy center working in the public interest to foster cognitive liberty, which we defined as the right of individuals to think independently and autonomously, to use the full spectrum of their mind, and to engage in multiple modes of consciousness.

So in essence, we're working to protect the full potential of the human intellect.

Cognitive liberty is an essential human right.  The United Nations' universal declaration of human rights and the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights both support a basic human right to cognitive liberty or freedom of thought.

The complexity of our social fabric conspires to make any assignation of transcendent values difficult, particularly when, as in the case of bio or neuroethics, the issues span such elementary yet malleable values as individual and collective good or quality of life.

The CCLE recognizes — that's the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics — recognizes, as does the Council, that the complexity of many of the issues involving brain enhancement are not easily resolvable.

However, we hope that by introducing the principle of cognitive liberty into the discussion, the Council will find useful distinctions in making its recommendations.

To the CCLE and our supporters, the question of mind enhancement is fundamentally a question of cognitive self-determination interwoven with an ethics of reciprocal autonomy, autonomy not as arbitrary legislation created for oneself, but rather as laws that permit whenever possible successful interaction with others based on respect and tolerance for each other's core values and freedoms.

I'd like to read a quote from Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School.

"In a society whose whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds, the governing institutions and especially the courts must not only reject direct attempts to exercise forbidden domination over mental processes.  They must strictly examine as well oblique intrusions likely to produce or designed to produce the same result."

Decisions about as intimate a freedom as cognitive liberty should be allocated to the individual rather than the government.  The CCLE works from the premise that the role of the state, criminal law, science, and ethics, should be guided by principles that enhance opportunities for each individual to self-actualize.

Public policy decisions should be framed by principles of legal liberalism, not by moralism or paternalism.  This is not to say that morals or safety precautions have no place in determining appropriate uses of drugs or mind technologies, but that the role of the state should not be to determine what is or isn't moral, what are or are not acceptable personal risks.

In our opinion, public policy for psychotropic drugs and/or brain technologies should stem from our democratic government's responsibility for preserving individual autonomy and choice to the maximum extent possible.

While neuroethical issues are complex and often deeply philosophical, the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics maintains that a solid starting point for practical discussion begins with these two fundamental recognitions.

First, as long as their behavior doesn't endanger others, individuals should not be compelled against their will to use technologies that directly interact with the brain or be forced to take certain psychoactive drugs.

Second, as long as they do not subsequently engage in behavior that harms others, individuals should not be prohibited from or criminalized for using new mind enhancing drugs or technologies.

Simply put, the freedom and right to control one's own consciousness is the necessary foundation on which virtually every other freedom stands.

Thank you.

My written comments also have been submitted to the Council which are extended.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Thank you very much.

Is there any other member of the public that would like to make a comment before we adjourn?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN KASS:  If not, thanks to our guests for stimulating presentations.  Thanks to the Council members for your attention during the long day.

You should have at your seat the directions for where we are meeting at dinner, which will be, I believe, at seven o'clock; is that correct?  Let me have it.  Six thirty for the reception, seven o'clock the dinner.

I remind you that tomorrow morning we start at 8:30, and we will be joined by two distinguished guests from the U.K. to talk about regulation in Britain.

The meeting is adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 5:33 p.m., the meeting in the above-entitled matter was adjourned, to reconvene at 8:30 a.m., Friday, October 18, 2002.)

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