Ethics of Functional Neurosurgery

  • Robert Bauer
  • Alireza Gharabaghi
Reference work entry


Functional neurosurgery became one of the most dynamic fields in surgery developing from a subdiscipline to a major driver of innovations and novel therapeutic interventions. Despite an inglorious history rooted in unspecific psychosurgical lesioning techniques, functional neurosurgery has evolved to a highly precise intervention based on cutting edge imaging, image guidance, and physiological technology offering the last treatment resort for a growing number of neurological and psychiatric indications. Novel devices including closed-loop systems for neuromodulation and prosthetic control promise further new treatment options in the near future.

These dynamic developments are changing the traditional field of related ethical issues significantly. This necessitates that functional neurosurgeons, patients, and society in general will have to deal with new ethical issues in the areas of neuroenhancement, privacy of brain-related information, and patient autonomy regarding control of implanted devices. These issues add to those already inherent to this discipline, e.g., challenges to neurosurgeons from the perspective of professional ethics in the specific context of brain intervention or adequate patient information about the increasing unpredictability of risks and benefits.

Functional neurosurgery will continue to open new doors of modulating brain function; concurrently arising ethical issues need to be addressed by ethicists and physicians jointly and ahead of time.


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Deep Brain Stimulation Reference Class Neurosurgical Intervention Awake Craniotomy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Translational and Functional & Restorative Neurosurgery, Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity Hospital TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and HumanitiesUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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