2019 Annual Meeting
Chicago, IL, USA
October 17-18

Interview With Jennifer Chandler

Working at the Intersection of Brain Science, Law and Ethics

Jennifer Chandler is internationally recognized for her research and writing in the law and ethics of brain sciences. She holds the Bertram Loeb Research Chair at the University of Ottawa in Canada and has launched Neuroethics-Panamericana, a group of clinicians, ethicists, and social scientists who are collaborating on the regulation of neuromodulation. She is an elected member of the INS Board of Directors. Chandler will be moderating a panel discussion on 'Incapable Patients and Psychiatric Neurosurgery: What do Law and Ethics Have to Say?' at the 2019 INS Annual Meeting on Friday afternoon, October 18.

Image of Jennifer Chandler

Describe your background and your field of research

I started out in biology, and intended to move into medicine or neuroscience. Part of the way through, I took an elective course in international law and became fascinated by social problems. Before I knew it, I was in law school, and then practicing law. However, my interest in science and the brain remained and now I specialize in the intersection of the brain sciences, law, and ethics, looking at concrete problems of how to regulate particular neuro-interventions to the more abstract questions of how neurobiological concepts affect law and legal procedures. I teach mental health law and neuroethics in law school, among other topics. My research is broader, however, and explores the impact of brain sciences on law, from human rights law, family law, the rules of evidence and tort law to criminal and correctional law.

What got you interested in neuroethics?

I’ve always been interested in the brain and mind. As a teenager I was very interested in consciousness and creativity, and I still am. I count myself as very lucky to have landed in this field, as it allows me to investigate how we understand ourselves, how we think, perceive, and behave, and how we should address the social challenges and frictions of living in technologically advanced but highly unequal societies. The scope of imagination and the pace of discovery in neuroscience and technology also means there is something new to think about every day over breakfast.

Why are you involved with the INS?

The INS brings together a wonderful interdisciplinary and international group of thinkers. I have found many true friends at the INS and I look forward to seeing them at meetings. It’s an important group for the future of the field. I’m pleased that the INS is committed to internationalizing, so that we can mutually benefit from looking at neuro-ethical questions through different cultural lenses.

Describe the session cover that you are moderating on 'Incapable Patients and Psychiatric Neurosurgery: What do Law and Ethics Have to Say?'

Psychiatric neuromodulation (including psychiatric neurosurgery) is a rapidly evolving field, in terms of the technologies employed, but also the target conditions and symptoms. There is a lot of excitement and concern within the field to ensure that its development is not be imperilled by questionable practices. There are quite a few laws around the world already that explicitly regulate 'psychosurgery,' reflecting concerns with patient vulnerability and the need for oversight and data collection. Now is the time to pull people together and ask: how we can come to a common position? How do we share data? Are existing laws inappropriate? Do we need an international context for surgeons and researchers who work in other countries, and for patients who migrate?

Can the law and regulation keep up with the speed of the development of new neurotechnology?

Using psychiatric neurosurgery as an example, most of the existing laws were written when the technology we have now did not exist. So the laws may refer to procedures that sound like deep brain stimulation but they are often actually out of step with newer forms and might, therefore, raise new issues in regulation. Maybe the current laws are adequate, but questions need to be asked. For example, who owns the algorithm that determines the stimulation required to affect someone’s personality and thinking?

What parts of the annual meeting are you excited about?

First, I’m very excited about the program itself. There are excellent subjects and speakers. Second, as a member of the Program Committee I’ve been able to review some of the abstracts that have been submitted and there are some really great topics. We are going to have a wonderful set of posters to read, and I look forward to speaking with the contributors. Finally, I value the conversations with colleagues over lunch and coffee.

Why should people attend the INS annual meeting?

Because of the richness of the content of the sessions and the discussions they inspire, and also so that people can join a vibrant and growing community helping us develop the field.


Mapping Neuroethics: An Expanded Vision

The 2019 Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) will gather a diverse group of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and professionals dedicated to the responsible use of advances in brain science. Attendees will participate in intellectually stimulating and dynamic sessions that will explore neuroethics in a global context.

Discounted registration rates are available until September 20.

Meeting Program