Memory Interventions in the Criminal Justice System: Some Practical Ethical Considerations

J Bioeth Inq. 2016 Mar;13(1):95-103. doi: 10.1007/s11673-015-9680-2. Epub 2015 Dec 29.

Abstract

In recent years, discussion around memory modification interventions has gained attention. However, discussion around the use of memory interventions in the criminal justice system has been mostly absent. In this paper we start by highlighting the importance memory has for human well-being and personal identity, as well as its role within the criminal forensic setting; in particular, for claiming and accepting legal responsibility, for moral learning, and for retribution. We provide examples of memory interventions that are currently available for medical purposes, but that in the future could be used in the forensic setting to modify criminal offenders' memories. In this section we contrast the cases of (1) dampening and (2) enhancing memories of criminal offenders. We then present from a pragmatic approach some pressing ethical issues associated with these types of memory interventions. The paper ends up highlighting how these pragmatic considerations can help establish ethically justified criteria regarding the possibility of interventions aimed at modifying criminal offenders' memories.

Keywords: Criminal; Criminal forensic setting; Memory; Neuro-intervention; Retribution.

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior / ethics*
  • Coercion
  • Conscience*
  • Criminal Law / ethics
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Criminal Law / trends
  • Criminals / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Decision Making / ethics
  • Emotions
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Forensic Psychiatry / ethics*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods
  • Forensic Psychiatry / trends
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Competency* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mental Competency* / psychology
  • Mental Recall* / drug effects
  • Morals
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Propranolol / pharmacology
  • Punishment* / psychology
  • Safety
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Thiopental / pharmacology
  • Torture / ethics
  • Torture / psychology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / ethics
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / ethics

Substances

  • Ethanol
  • Propranolol
  • Thiopental