News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

WATCH — New Technologies, New Dilemmas

New technologies with implications for human health and enhancement are developing at breakneck speed, with fundamental changes in genomic medicine, reproductive technology, neuroscience, and even how we die. Each of these technologies raises important questions at the intersection of ethics, law, and politics. What role should the government have in regulating scientific innovation? How should we weigh potential risks and benefits, to individuals, vulnerable populations, and even the environment? Can these technologies be used to promote justice, or do they risk entrenching existing disparities? Glenn Cohen ‘03, faculty director, Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School; Judith Edersheim ‘85, co-founder and co-director, Center for Law, Brain and Behavior, Harvard Medical School; Atul Gawande, executive director of Ariadne Labs; and Eric Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, discussed these pressing questions, and more, from their perspectives as lawyers, scientists, and clinicians. Carmel Shachar ‘10 hosted the panel. Their talk was part of the HLS in the World bicentennial summit which took place at Harvard Law School on Friday, October 27, 2017. Read more: http://200.hls.harvard.edu/

Watch video of the entire event here!

 

WATCH — Dementia and Democracy

Our judiciary and our elected officials are getting old. Five of the nine Supreme Court Justices are 67 or older, with two over age 80. The President is 71, the Senate Majority Leader is 75, and the House Minority Leader is 77. Does the public have a right to know whether these officials have been screened for dementia? If the individuals don’t self-report their dementia status, should experts continue to adhere to the “Goldwater Rule” and refrain from offering an armchair diagnosis? As the nation reflects on its midterm elections, and prepares for the 2020 election cycle, these questions are timely and challenging.

Panelists:

Rebecca Brendel, JD, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Director, Master’s in Bioethics Program, Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School; Director of Law & Ethics, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, Massachusetts General Hospital

Bruce Price, MD, Chief, Department of Neurology at McLean Hospital; Associate in Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School; Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, Massachusetts General Hospital

Francis X. Shen, PhD, JD, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, the Petrie-Flom Center in Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital; Associate Professor of Law and McKnight Land-Grant Professor, University of Minnesota Law School; Executive Director of Education and Outreach, the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience

Moderator: Judith Edersheim, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; attending Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital

Watch video of the entire event below!

This event was part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

WATCH — The Neurolaw Revolution: A Lecture by Francis X. Shen

Rapid advances in the brain sciences offer both promise and peril for the law. In light of these developments, Dr. Francis Shen explored how neuroscientific analysis of law may revolutionize legal doctrine and practice.

Click to enlarge poster.

Dr. Shen is the third Senior Fellow in Law and Neuroscience in the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center. Dr. Shen directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab at the University of Minnesota, is co-author of the first Law and Neuroscience casebook, and serves as Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.

This event was held from 4:00-5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 13, at Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East A, Harvard Law School (1585 Massachusetts Ave, 02138). It was free and open to the public. This lecture was followed at 5:30 pm by the Petrie-Flom Center’s 2017 Open House reception.

Continue reading »

CLBB Welcomes New Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience!

We’re excited to announce our 2017–2018 Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, Francis X. Shen!

Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience

The Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, now entering its fourth year, is a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. The collaboration includes a Senior Fellow in residence, public symposia, and a Law and Neuroscience Seminar at Harvard Law School taught by the Hon. Nancy Gertner. For more information, see the full press release on the launch of the program.

2017­–2018 Senior Fellow

Francis X. Shen, PhD, JD is the third Senior Fellow in Law and Neuroscience. Shen is currently an Associate Professor of Law and McKnight Presidential Fellow at the University of Minnesota; affiliated faculty at the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. Shen received his JD from Harvard Law School, and his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard.

As Senior Fellow, he will pursue original research, mentoring, and public engagement on legal issues related to the aging brain, dementia, traumatic brain injury, and the law. Activities will include expert symposia and public events to promote focused discussion on how the law can more effectively respond to aging brain issues including dementia and traumatic brain injury.

Shen’s goal during his fellowship year will be to foster this interdisciplinary dialogue on dementia and the law. The Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience will assess the utility of law’s traditional approaches to capacity and undue influence in light of emerging science on the neurobiology of dementia; consider the future legal utility and ethics of new biomarkers for dementia; and begin developing new theoretical and practical frameworks for more fairly and effectively adjudicating cases in which dementia plays a role.

Please join us in welcoming Francis Shen to the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior!

To learn more about the Project’s 2017–2018 Area of Inquiry, Dementia and the Law, visit the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience website!

Here’s How To Responsibly Talk About Mental Health In The Public Eye

CLBB’s Director of Law & Ethics, Dr. Rebecca Brendel, comments on the consequences of speculating about the mental health of public figures. The “Goldwater rule”, an ethical guideline that encourages mental health professionals to avoid such speculation, has recently been the subject of popular conversation as various mental health experts argue that Donald Trump demonstrates characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. Dr. Brendel notes:

“Engaging in a psychiatric diagnosis requires the consent of the individual and is based on an in-person evaluation.”

“Rendering an opinion based on observed behavior in the public sphere doesn’t take into account underlying factors that may not be inherently seen,” she continued. “There’s also the potential of discouraging those with mental illness from seeking treatment out of concern that they might be talked about publicly.”

She goes on to argue:

“Mental illnesses are medical illnesses, for which there is sound psychiatric care available. Anyone with mental illness should have confidence in the integrity of their physicians.”

“Someone can have a diagnosis of depression for example, but that doesn’t mean it affects their ability to hold any kind of public responsibility.” 

Read the full article, “Here’s How To Responsibly Talk About Mental Health In The Public Eye”, published by The Huffington Post on July 25, 2017.