The fourth Hungarian NERRI Mobility and Mutual Learning Event took place at Central European University with the participation of regulators, legal experts in medical and pharmaceutical law, patient group representatives, legal academics and ethicists. Its aim was to understand the legal framework of neuro-enhancement, and bring together views on existing and potential areas of law making, the relevant legal principles, and on individual and social expectations towards regulation. The MMLE provided an excellent opportunity for an intensive dialogue on the benefits and pitfalls of regulation in an evolving and uncertain technological area, such as neuro-enhancement, and also on the available and potential instruments of legal and non-legal regulation.
The MMLE led participants understand that law and regulation face serious conceptual and operational difficulties when applied in the context of neuro-enhancement. Neurosciences challenge the fundamental conceptions of the human being, its autonomy, integrity and rationality. The relevant legal principles, which should be available in the regulation of neuro-enhancement, may, therefore, need reinterpretation and readjustment. Furthermore, neuro-enhancement questions the assumed clear distinctions – as preferred by law and regulation – between normalcy and enhancement, treatment and enhancement, or biological and technical existence. Neuro-enhancement also ignores legal doctrinal boundaries, the differences between different normative domains, and make the silences and gaps in regulation more relevant than regulation itself.
Our discussions also revealed some more traditional regulatory dilemmas. There was considerable disagreement as to the appropriate regulatory approaches and strategies. Considering the diversity – in terms of aims, technologies, interventions etc. – of neuro-enhancement, a holistic approach to regulation was not supported. This, then led to discussion on the areas and aspects of neuro-enhancement which require regulation. In this regard, it was debated whether and how existing domains of regulation, for example, on research, on product safety and consumer protection, or on medical therapies, should be expanded or otherwise modified. It was also raised whether regulating risk and information was the only appropriate strategy for regulation. There was some consensus emerging that because of the impact of neuro-enhancement on human beings as individual and social beings adopting a fundamentally different regulatory strategy may be necessary, which would reflect the far reaching implications of neuro-enhancement on the dignity and integrity of human beings, and on the formal and substantive dimensions of equality between them.