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The Unintended Consequences of Chile’s Neurorights Constitutional Reform: Moving beyond Negative Rights to Capabilities

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Abstract

As scholars envision a new regulatory or statutory neurorights schema it is important to imagine unintended consequences if reforms are implemented before their implications are fully understood. This paper critically evaluates provisions proposed for a new Chilean Constitution and evaluates this movement against efforts to improve the diagnosis of, and treatment for, individuals with disorders of consciousness within the broader context of disability law, international human rights, and a capabilities approach to health justice as advanced by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. Framed in this way, any neurorights regime would need to satisfy several criteria. First it would be obliged to balance both positive and negative rights in the furtherance of human capabilities. Second, it would need to be future oriented and informed about the science it sought to regulate and not fall prey to science fiction fantasies that remain ungrounded in reality. Third, it would need to be specific and avoid generalizations that would lead to conceptual confusion and litigation that could delay scientific progress. Finally, it would need to harmonize novel neurorights with long-established norms in international disability and human rights law. A failure to meet these criteria will destine any novel neurorights regime to the periphery. At this juncture Chile’s nascent constitutional venture into neurorights fails to satisfy these criteria. While there yet may be a role for a more capacious and bivalent articulation of neurorights that account for capabilities and precedent, the current Chilean neurorights reforms are vague and premature. As such they should undergo additional scholarly scrutiny and should not be adopted by other jurisdictions.

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Acknowledgements

Research cited in this paper was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative, "Cognitive Restoration: Neuroethics and Disability Rights" [1RF1MH12378-01], Fins JJ, PI.

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Fins, J.J. The Unintended Consequences of Chile’s Neurorights Constitutional Reform: Moving beyond Negative Rights to Capabilities. Neuroethics 15, 26 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-022-09504-z

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