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Brain Repair and the Near Future of Death


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James J. Hughes

James J. Hughes

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  • 1. Brain Repair and the Near Future of Death James J. Hughes Ph.D. Author Citizen Cyborg Executive Director, World Transhumanist Association & Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies Public Policy Studies, Trinity College, Hartford CT
  • 2. Biopolitical Struggle
    • Radical life extension not just scientific progress
    • Also requires legal and cultural evolution
    • From bioconservatism to transhumanism
    • Human-racism vs. personhood
    • Who is a citizen with a right to life?: abortion, stem cells, great ape rights, chimeras, brain death
    • Brain Repair will be central
  • 3. Biopolitical Values Tech must be banned Risks are manageable Sacred taboos, “the natural”, yuck factor Humanism, reason, individual liberty Human-Racism (Deep Ecology) Personhood Bioconservatism Transhumanism
  • 4. From Human-racism…
    • Human-racism: Human embodiment is the basis of rights-bearing
    • Humans have souls or crypto-spiritual “human dignity”
    • Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (UN General Assembly, 1998)
      • “ The human genome underlies the fundamental unity of all members of the human family, as well as the recognition of their inherent dignity and diversity.”
    • Annas/Andrews Treaty: human enhancement should be “a crime against humanity”
    Embryonic citizens?
  • 5. …to Personhood
    • Is hairlessness one of the genes necessary for citizenship?
    • Persons: “conscious beings, aware of themselves, with intents and purposes over time”
    • You can be human and not persons : fetus, PVS, braindead
    • You can be a person and not human : great apes, AI, posthumans
    • Legal personhood confers the “right to life” and personal continuity
  • 6. Continuity of Personal Identity
    • Human-racism : identity = body
    • H+: identity = memory, personality
    • Thought Experiments
      • Scoop out my dead brain and keep me on life support
      • Scoop out my dead brain and replace it with someone else’s
      • Scoop out my dead brain, and grow a new one
      • Who would I be legally?
  • 7. Alcor’s Definition of Death
    • Death: irreversible loss of the structural information which encodes memory and personality
    • Alcor Cryonics: Reaching for Tomorrow
  • 8. Schiavo and Religious Right
    • Christian Right mobilizing
    • Abortion
    • Assisted dying
    • Stem cells
    • Schiavo, living wills, PVS
    • Artificial reproduction
    • Pope Benedict
  • 9. New BioConservative Alliances
    • Religious Right
      • CS Lewis The Abolition of Man
    • Neoconservatives
      • Fukuyama Our Posthuman Future
    • Deep Ecologists, Romantic Luddites
      • Aldous Huxley Brave New World
    • Left-wing/Feminist Critics of Biotech
      • Jeremy Rifkin Algeny
      • Gena Corea The Mother Machine
    • Pro-Disability Extremists
      • Not Dead Yet
  • 10. Trans- humanism (H+)
    • 18 th century rationalism and skepticism
    • Dignity and worth of humanity
    • Liberty, equality, democracy
    • Our capacity for self-realization through reason, without supernatural assistance
    Transhumanists are humanists who emphasize what we have the potential to become through reason.
  • 11. H+ = Radical Human Rights
    • Liberal democracy = personhood not race, gender or species as base of citizenship
    • Citizens have right to self-ownership, self-determination: Control own bodies & brains
    John Locke 1632-1704
  • 12. Secular Bioethicists Moving To H+
    • Greg Pence , author Who is a Afraid of Human Cloning?
    • Greg Stock , author of Redesigning Humans
    • Religious Right (Schiavo) and Kassites polarizing, scaring bioethicists
    • Forced to defend autonomy & technology against religious thuggery and nonsense yuck factor arguments
    Arthur Caplan : “…enhancing intelligence or changing personality or modifying our memory, maybe that should be available to everyone as a guarantee of equal opportunity.”
  • 13. Tech Spurs Ethical Change “ Animal” personhood Humanzees Status of post-humans Genetic enhancement Status of brain damaged Brain repair Status of embryos, fetuses NICU/Artificial Womb Ethical Challenge Technology
  • 14. Recent History of Death
    • 1960s: respirators, organ transplantation
    • 1968: Beecher paper in JAMA arguing for whole brain death definition
    • 1981: President’s Commission drafts uniform model (whole brain) death law
    • Today: brain death the law in most states, most countries
  • 15. Unstable Compromise
    • 1970s and 1980s debate:
      • Heart death vs.
      • Whole brain vs.
      • neocortical/personhood death
    • Whole brain death a compromise because
      • The whole brain dead would die in days
      • Declaring the vegetative “dead” politically impossible
  • 16. Whole Brain Death Unravels
    • Diagnostic procedures inconsistent, incoherent
    • Electrical activity persists in most “brain dead”
    • Shewmon 1999: Whole brain death is “survivable” indefinitely
    • Maintaining Schiavos indefinitely untenable
  • 17. Just Forget “Death”?
    • Fost, Youngner, et al.: forget “death” - when do we turn off respirator and take organs
    • Emanuel: choice in the dying zone between PVS and heart death:
      • Self/family can choose euthanasia after permanent unconsciousness
      • no cremation/burial until heart death
      • after heart death treatment must stop
  • 18. Tech challenges permanence
    • The pronouncement of death is thus an arbitrary (if admittedly very practical) medical and legal construct, which amounts to a statement saying in effect: ‘Your affliction has exceeded our current level of medical skill and we are currently powerless to restore you to function; therefore we give up.
    • Alcor Cryonics: Reaching for Tomorrow
  • 19. Emerging Brain Repair Tech
    • Tech that will be applied to brain repair
      • Neuro-protective drugs
      • Neuro-genesis drugs
      • Neurogenic gene therapies
      • Stem cells and tissue engineering
      • Neural stimulation
      • Neural prostheses
      • Nano-neural-bots
    • The accelerating convergence of all these
  • 20. NBIC: Nanowiring the Brain “ Neuro-vascular central nervous recording/stimulating system: Using nanotechnology probes,” Rodolfo R. Llinás, Kerry D. Walton, Masayuki Nakao, et al.
  • 21. DNR, NBHD & the Probably Dead
    • Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders
      • Potentially revivable, but allowed to remain dead in order to facilitate a dignified death
    • Non-Heart Beating Donor Protocol
      • Being declared dead depends not only on how unlikely it is you can be revived,
      • But also on people not wanting to bring you back
    • PVS is probabilistic diagnosis
  • 22. Brain Damaged/Dead as Missing Person
    • Missing persons
    • Potentially alive, but legally dead
      • time
      • evidence
    • If they reappear
      • Reimbursing those wrongly declared dead preferred to leaving affairs in limbo
  • 23. Search Parties for the Missing
    • If advance directives and prognosis permit, declaration of death will wait for trial of brain repair
    • Otherwise, they will be declared dead.
    • But what if brain repair recovers 20%? 10% 1%
      • For biocons, success
      • For H+ers, failure
  • 24. Testing for Continuity
    • Below threshold, different person
    • Advance directive could give body to future person
    • Advance directives and squatter’s rights
  • 25. Information Loss
    • How much info can be lost before we, and the law, consider the reconstituted mind a new person?
    • Alcor on Information Loss
    • ...even if today's patients do make it there, it is possible (and with sub-optimal suspension even likely) that they will wake with varying degrees of amnesia. In particularly bad cases, cell and tissue repair technology might only result in revival of a biological twin of the suspended patient.
    • Alcor Cryonics: Reaching for Tomorrow
  • 26. HETHR Conference
    • Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights
    • May 26-28, 2006
    • Stanford University Law School
    • Rights of transhuman persons
      • uploads, cyborgs
    • Rights to transhuman technology
      • Life extension
  • 27. For more information on H+
    • World Transhumanist Association
    • Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
    • (online magazine & daily news feed)
    • Me: