Emerging Technologies in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa and Ethics: Sufferers’ Accounts of Treatment Strategies and Authenticity
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New neural models for anorexia nervosa (AN) are emerging as a result of increased research on the neurobiology of AN, and these offer a rationale for the development of new treatment technologies such as neuromodulation. The emergence of such treatment technologies raises new ethical questions; however these have been little discussed for AN. In this article, I take an empirical approach and explore how young women who suffer from AN perceive treatment technologies in light of the concept of authenticity. Interview data showed that participants in this study did not seem to unconditionally adhere to treatment modalities that only imply laborious self-work, such as therapy. The data also showed that they were willing to accept new treatment possibilities such as pharmacological or brain-directed treatment strategies, which they view as having potential instrumental value in coping with certain symptoms of the illness. However, such modalities can pose threats to patients’ authenticity, especially with regard to self-discovery. I argue that, in a context where there is an increased interest in brain-directed treatment strategies for AN, studies should continue to explore the ethical and psychological impact of such treatment technologies on individuals.
KeywordsAnorexia nervosa Ethics Neuromodulation Neurotechnologies Treatment
This work has been supported by internal funds from Regional Unit for Eating Disorders, Department for Mental health and addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål. Thanks to the young women who have participated in this study. I also want to thank Bjørn Hofmann for helpful discussions and comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks also to Ilina Singh for contributing to the development of this project, and to the two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments.
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