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Neuroethics in Practice$
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Anjan Chatterjee and Martha J. Farah

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780195389784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195389784.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 October 2021

Personhood, Consciousness, and Severe Brain Damage

Personhood, Consciousness, and Severe Brain Damage

(p.175) 14 Personhood, Consciousness, and Severe Brain Damage
Neuroethics in Practice

Martha J. Farah

Oxford University Press

The concept of personhood is closely intertwined with concepts of morality in most people’s minds, and bioethical arguments sometimes turn on the question of whether someone or something is a person. Although normal adult humans are prototypical persons, severe brain damage can bring an adult human’s personhood into question. This chapter reviews the concept of personhood, a familiar and intuitive concept that plays a central role in ethics and law, but is nevertheless difficult to define precisely. After surveying the literature on criteria for personhood, three general, inter-related aspects of personhood will be taken to be a working definition with which to address the second goal: Relating the concept of personhood to our clinical knowledge about severely brain-damaged humans. The limitations of traditional clinical methods will be reviewed, motivating a new approach using functional neuroimaging. The third goal of this chapter is to review the ways in which imaging has been used for assessing the mental life of severely brain-damaged patients, distinguishing among different forms of inference using functional imaging data and differing strengths and weaknesses of these approaches.

Keywords:   personhood, bioethics, ethics, law, brain damage, functional neuroimaging, assessment

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