Roberto Andorno is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Law and Bioethics at the School of Law and a Researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Ethics at the School of Medicine at the University of Zurich.
Latin American countries appear to have been more receptive to the notion of neuro rights and the need for their operationalization than other geographic regions. Is it so? What could be the reason?
"Indeed, Latin American countries have been especially receptive to the issue of "neuro rights". I think that this is related to the sensitivity that exists in the region towards practices contrary to human rights, which is explained by decades of non-democratic governments. This might explain the concern regarding access to people’s mental data and its potential for generating unprecedented forms of human rights violations. Moreover, high crime rates in the region can explain why experts in Criminal Law and Criminology are interested in the contribution that neurotechnologies could make to the penal system, as well as in the prevention of violence and a better estimate of the risks of recidivism. However, at the same time, experts insist on the need to establish a criminal justice system that pays more attention to the cognitive deficiencies of those who commit violent crimes, especially minors. This is particularly significant considering that the minimum age for criminal responsibility is quite low in the region when compared to that of other countries. Added to this is the expectation that neurotechnologies can somehow contribute to a better understanding of the possible impact of poverty on people's cognitive development and on criminal behavior."
You have recently written a report for UNESCO on neurotechnology and neuro rights in Latin
America: what two points of your report would you like to highlight?
"First, both research and clinical activity in the field of neuroscience are well-established in several countries of the region (especially Argentina, Chile, and Brazil), where the most advanced technologies are available and with results similar to those found in the most developed countries. However, medical care in this field is concentrated above all in private clinics in large cities, which raises a question of equity, especially in a context, such as Latin America, characterized by high levels of poverty and difficulties in access to good quality basic health care services. Second, there is special interest in issues related to Criminal Law and Criminology, such as the contribution of neuroscience to the juvenile penal system, criminal imputability, and neuroprediction. Latin American authors often criticize that the courts tend to disregard scientific data showing that the adolescent brain is not fully developed yet, particularly in the areas that process decision-making, risk assessment and self-control, and impulses. They also call for caution when using neuroimaging in combination with artificial intelligence devices to assess the risk of recidivism in minors, since insofar as they are based on data from adults, algorithmic biases in existing techniques could result in discriminatory practices against adolescents.