Dr. Martha Farah – blog.Bioethics.gov https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog The blog of the 2009 - 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues Mon, 09 Jan 2017 23:23:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The chair’s request: A single good idea https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2011/02/28/the-chair%e2%80%99s-request-a-single-good-idea/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2011/02/28/the-chair%e2%80%99s-request-a-single-good-idea/#respond Mon, 28 Feb 2011 22:38:28 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=105 At the end of a long meeting today, Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania and Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, had one question for a group of experts on the ethics of genetics testing and neuro-imaging:

“What could we most productively take on as a commission? Is there one specific issue you would like us to take up, or one set of facts that you think is very important? What would that be?’’

Some of the answers:

Hank Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, Stanford Law School: “Research use of collective data, everything from consent to incidental findings.”

Dr. Erik Parens, Senior Research Scholar at The Hastings Center: How to handle an avalanche of information “that would help rather than harm people.”

Dr. James P. Evans, Clinical Professor and Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine: “Forensic issues. I think the questions regarding forensics, including the newer use of searching databases for cold hits, are exceptionally timely. Your input would be influential.”

Dr. Martha Farah, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in Natural Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania: “Attention to the pipeline through which new neuro-imaging applications are developed. Who is taking on the cost of doing it? Who is doing the research? How is that pipeline influenced by who owns and develops the technology, and how does that shape or distort what gets produced and what gets used?”

Dr. Adina Roskies, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College: “I’m in line with Martha. Also, better means of interpreting the data.”

Dr. Stephen Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & School of Medicine: “Mine is vaguer, more foundational: How the new neuroscience will undermine the notion of what it is to be a human being.”

Susan Wolf, McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine & Public Policy at the University of Minnesota: “You’re not the Institute of Medicine, you’re not the National Academy of Sciences, what you do is public bioethics. One of the biggest issues is the question of the management of information. It’s going to be a total renegotiation of the line between research and clinical care.”

Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University: “I also am concerned about management of data, but in a different way. In a clinical context, we are not going to be able to control access to data.”

The panel will reconvene on Tuesday morning. It has yet to decide whether to take up an inquiry on the ethics of genetic testing and neuro-imaging. Its focus on Tuesday will be a separate issue: the protection of human subjects in clinical trials overseas.

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Read your mind? Not in a ‘million light years’ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2011/02/28/read-your-mind-not-in-a-%e2%80%98million-light-years%e2%80%99/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2011/02/28/read-your-mind-not-in-a-%e2%80%98million-light-years%e2%80%99/#respond Mon, 28 Feb 2011 18:37:33 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=97 The members of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues received a primer today on recent advances in the use of medical technology on neuro-imagery. It was a session that Dr. Gregory House of the TV show House would have found fascinating – especially the multiple uses of MRI machines to help detect hard-to-diagnosis diseases.

The Commission is considering whether to embark on examining ethical issues surrounding the uses of neuro-imagery and genetic testing.

A panel of scientists said that one cutting-edge ethical issue now involves how private companies could use this technology for what they called “neuro-marketing” in order to advance the sale of products.

But one issue not on the table: whether new technology can help read minds — because it can’t.

Such technology “is a million light years away,” said Dr. Martha Farah, the Walter H. Annenberg Professor in Natural Science and Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.

Science isn’t close to enabling researchers to read the thoughts of others, Farah said in an interview. Still, though, she knows people fear that it will happen. She said she gets asked about it frequently.

“We are nowhere near being able to read sentences or thoughts that are the equivalent of sentences,” Farah said. “But it is the case that we can derive a fair amount of personal information including current mental states, such as mood, intentions, and desire to buy an object” from Functional MRIs, or fMRIs.

But the interpretation of brain imagery, captured in fMRIs, was far from perfect, she said. “There is a lot of significant personal information from fMRIs. It is with a degree of accuracy that is far from perfect, but is well above chance.”

That leads Farah to be wary of neuro-marketing. “The biggest ethical issue to me is the fact that many of the most exciting new applications of brain imaging are being developed entirely with private corporate funding for commercial purposes,” she said. “I don’t think that is going to give us the best new contributions to society, and I don’t think that is going to lead to the greatest transparency concerning what these scans can do.”

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