Neurointerventions and Informed Consent

Sebastian Jon Holmen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


It is widely believed that informed consent must be obtained from a patient for it to be morally permissible to administer to him/her a medical intervention. The same has been argued for the use of neurointerventions administered to criminal offenders. Arguments in favour of a consent requirement for neurointerventions can take two forms. First, according to absolutist views, neurointerventions should never be administered without an offender’s informed consent. However, I argue that these views are ultimately unpersuasive. The second, and more plausible, form defences of the consent requirement may take are more moderate in that they accept the use of neurointerventions in some (rare) cases, but not in (most) others. Based on common rationales for consent in medical interventions, I discuss whether four moderate approaches in defence of the informed consent requirement for medical interventions succeed in establishing that informed consent must be obtained from offenders prior to administering neurointerventions to them. I offer novel critical perspectives on approaches that have already received some attention in the literature (ie, bodily integrity and harm), and I critically discuss other approaches to defending informed consent in a medical context that have not yet received due attention (ie, self-ownership and trust). Ultimately, I argue that it is not obvious that any of these considerations support a requirement of offenders’ informed consent to neurointerventions. Lastly, however, I suggest that there is at least one overlooked fact as regards how courts currently employ mandatory neurointerventions, which may support such a requirement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)E86
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • criminal law
  • informed consent
  • neuroethics
  • prisoners

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