Ethical questions surround deep brain stimulation therapy for Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases

deep brain

[D]eep brain stimulation [is] a type of therapy in which one or more electrodes are inserted into your brain and connected to a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device in your chest. This device, which is approximately the size of a stopwatch, sends electric pulses to a targeted region of your brain. The idea is to control a variety of neurological symptoms that can’t be adequately managed by drugs.

Over the last twenty years, deep brain stimulation, known as DBS, has become an efficient and safe alternative for the treatment of chronic neurological diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and neuropathic pain.

[T]hese new applications are raising profound ethical questions about individuality, personality, and even what it means to be human.

Gabriel Lazaro-Munoz, an assistant professor at The Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine [said] “These responses define us as human beings and dictate our autonomy. If a participant experiences a personality change, does this change who they are or dehumanize them by altering their nature? These are some of the questions we have to consider.”

And then there is the question of money. The costs of DBS are covered by most insurance companies and Medicare only for FDA-approved targets like Parkinson’s. Off-label uses are not covered, at least for now.

Read full, original post: Deep Brain Stimulation for Mental Illnesses Raises Ethical Concerns

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