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Copyright (c) 2007 Boston University School of Law
American Journal of Law & Medicine

ARTICLE: Foreword: Imagining a New Era of Neuroimaging, Neuroethics, and Neurolaw


33 Am. J. L. and Med. 163


George J. Annas +


The human brain has been at the center of medicolegal debates since the late 1960s, when efforts began to develop an alternative definition of death: one centered on brain function instead of heart and lung function. Technological developments and new surgical techniques made this new definition of death, sometimes called "brain death," seem necessary. Mechanical ventilation, a technology that allows respiration and therefore heartbeat to continue after the brain ceases functioning, and heart transplantation, which requires a corpse with a beating heart as a donor, necessitated the definitional alternative. Irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain has been accepted both medically and legally as confirming the death of an individual. The medicolegal discussions have since concentrated on examination of the brain in living humans.

This year's Symposium issue of the American Journal of Law & Medicine, "Brain Imaging and the Law," is devoted to the legal implications of rapidly-developing imaging technology that goes beyond structural imaging of the brain to display a representation of brain functioning. As with contemporary medicolegal and bioethical literature on the implications of genetic engineering and nanotechnology, there is much imagination, hype, and even science fiction in this new arena, dubbed "neurolaw." 1 There is also, nonetheless, significant technological wizardry. Although functional neuroimaging is not ready for routine courtroom use, the Journal's editors who selected this topic, and recruited the authors of the articles in this issue, chose wisely. Serious reflection, and even imaginative speculation, on what new brain imaging technologies can ...
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