Who’s Responsible For A Person’s Actions- Personal Responsibility and Medical Behavior Control

With the growing number of medicines and other techniques for altering the brain, there are more and more questions being raised about the responsibility of a person’s actions. Unforunately, these fears are based far more in fact than in fiction.

The side-effects of some drugs are known to include serious behavioral issues. For example, when patients take the medicines for dopamine-replacement therapy (DRT), a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, they develop problems associated with impulse control, like compulsive gambling and hypersexuality (Carter, Ambermoon, & Hall, 2010). The concern which derives from this specifically is an obvious one- can these people be held accountable for their actions while taking DRT medications? And if not, can anyone be held accountble for their actions? If chemicals in the brain can cause someone to lack impulse control, does that mean that people who engage in these activities are victims of a chemical imbalance?

The entire field of neuroscience is under scrutiny for one major ethical concern- can the findings from this field be used to control people? As is explained in the “Reconsidering Normal” section, people can be kept from creating new memories for a time, so actions can be carried out without the fear of having to live with knowing that one has done something horrible. Above, the idea of drugs being able to cause a person to do things seen as immoral and possibly illegal was discussed. In addition, an experimental treatment for depression was once used on several women that involved deep brain stimulation with electrodes- the women’s moods improved, but the stimulation also caused the women to fall in love with the experimenters (The Economist, 2002). These sorts of results from experiments in the field of neuroscience raise major questions not only on who or what is responsible for human behavior but also what it is possible to cause another human being to do.

For the time being, people are not worrying about what is being done with these technologies, but there is a large and reasonable worry as to what may be done with the results of these branches of research.

Page by Nick Howard


Carter, A., Ambermoon, P., & Hall, W. (2010). Drug-induced impulse control                                        disorders: A prospectus for neuroethical analysis. Neuroethics.                                            doi:10.1007/s12152-010-9071-7

Economist, The (2002). Neuroscience: The future of mind control. Retrieved from                           http://www.economist.com/node/1143583?story_id=1143583

ForaTv (2008, January 1). Raymond Tallis- free will and the brain [Video          File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?

One Response to “Who’s Responsible For A Person’s Actions- Personal Responsibility and Medical Behavior Control”

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