Neurotechnologies and Human Rights Framework:
Do We Need New Rights?
9 November 2021, 10:00-17:00 CET
Co-organised by the Council of Europe and the OECD
Technological innovation often creates its own dynamic. Major technological breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, genome editing, and neurotechnology have the potential to advance biomedicine and healthcare. However, uncertainty exists about the impact and direction of these developments. The Council of Europe Strategic Action Plan on Human Rights and Technologies in Biomedicine (2020-2025) (SAP), adopted by the Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO) stands an objective of embedding human rights in the development of technologies which have an application in the field of biomedicine. This Round Table gathers international experts from academia, industry and policy to discuss human rights issues raised by the applications of neurotechnologies.
The role of governance in biomedicine is often restricted to facilitating the applications of technology and to containing the risks that come to light. In this way, human rights considerations will only come into play at the end of the process, when the technological applications are already established, and the technological pathways often have become irreversible. To overcome this problem, there is a pressing need to embed human rights in technologies which have an application in the field of biomedicine. This implies that technological developments are from the outset oriented towards protecting human rights. For that reason, governance arrangements need to be considered, which seek to steer the innovation process in a way which connects innovation and technologies with social goals and values.
Applications in the field of neurotechnology raise issues of privacy, freedom, autonomy, integrity, and discrimination. It therefore needs to be assessed whether these issues can be sufficiently addressed by the existing human rights framework or whether new human rights pertaining to cognitive liberty, mental privacy, and mental integrity and psychological continuity, need to be entertained in order to complete the appropriate framework. Other flexible forms of good governance must also be considered. One starting point for this investigation lies in the OECD Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology, the first international standard in this field. Adopted in 2019, this instrument helps governments and innovators anticipate and address the various ethical, legal and social challenges raised by new neurotechnologies, while still promoting innovation in the field.
Round Table objectives
- Increase attention to the human rights issues raised by the applications of neurotechnologies in the biomedical field.
- Assess the existing human rights framework to address them with a view to prevent abuses and misuses while promoting thereby innovations and applications that are beneficial namely for human health.
- Identify possible avenue for actions to contribute to responsible innovation in neurotechnology.
The Round Table is jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the OECD in the light of the Memorandum of Understanding for Co-operative Activities between the CoE and the OECD adopted on 14 December 2020 by the two parties.
To prepare the Round Table a preparatory group was set up consisting of Mark Bale, DH-BIO Bureau member and UK delegate to the OECD Working Party on Bio-, Nano- and Converging Technologies, David Winickoff and Laura Kreiling, Secretariat of the OECD Working Party on Bio-, Nano- and Converging Technologies, Marcello Ienca, Consultant, and the DH-BIO Secretariat.