Restoring Responsibility: Promoting Justice, Therapy and Reform Through Direct Brain Interventions

8 November 2012

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Direct brain intervention based mental capacity restoration techniques—for instance, psycho-active drugs—are sometimes used in criminal cases to promote the aims of justice. For instance, they might be used to restore a person's competence to stand trial in order to assess the degree of their responsibility for what they did, or to restore their competence for punishment so that we can hold them responsible for it. Some also suggest that such interventions might be used for therapy or reform in criminal legal contexts—i.e. to make non-responsible and irresponsible people more responsible. However, in this paper, Nicole Vincent argues that such interventions may at least sometimes fail to promote these responsibility-related legal aims. This is because responsibility hinges on other factors than just what mental capacities a person has—in particular, it also hinges on such things as authenticity, personal identity, and mental capacity ownership—and some ways of restoring mental capacity may adversely affect these other factors. Put one way, Vincent's claim is that what might suffice for the restoration of competence need not necessarily suffice for the restoration of responsibility, or, put another way, that although responsibility indeed tracks mental capacity it may not always track restored mental capacities.

About the speaker

Nicole Vincent conducts research into theories of responsibility, and she studies how these theories inform ethical, political and legal debate. In 2007, she obtained her PhD in philosophy of law from the University of Adelaide with a dissertation entitled "Responsibility, Compensation and Accident Law Reform". From late 2007 until early 2011 she worked at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands on a research project entitled "The Brain and The Law". Since February 2011, Nicole has been a Macquarie University Research Fellow. Her research project entitled "Reappraising the Capacitarian Foundation of Neurolaw" has two components. First, it investigates whether capacitarian intuitions about the relationship between mental capacity and responsibility still obtain in contexts where mental capacity has been restored or enhanced. Second, she is also, with others, developing an Australasian Neurolaw Database.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this seminar is equal to 2 MCLE/CPD units.

This event is hosted byThe Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence.

Time: 6-8pm

Location: Common Room, Level 4, Sydney Law School, Building F10, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Cost: Free, registration essential

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 01591d780c3f2c3a323817432e1c45020f5f2e5c00781100