Chapter

The Carmentis Machine: Legal and Ethical Issues in the Use of Neuroimaging to Guide Treatment Withdrawal in Newborn Infants

Dominic Wilkinson and Charles Foster

in Law and Neuroscience

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599844
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725227 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599844.003.0016

Series: Current Legal Issues

The Carmentis Machine: Legal and Ethical Issues in the Use of Neuroimaging to Guide Treatment Withdrawal in Newborn Infants

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Currently the main forms of imaging used in newborns are ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These modalities provide imperfect guides to the severity and extent of brain damage, and there is often significant uncertainty about prognosis. The courts have placed some emphasis on imaging results in a couple of recent cases. But as neuroimaging techniques improve, predictions may become significantly more accurate. This chapter considers how such developments would influence legal judgments about the permissibility of withdrawing or withholding life support from newborn infants. Part 1 considers a hypothetical form of neuroimaging — called this the ‘Carmentis Machine’ — able to predict accurately future impairments in newborn infants. Part 2 provides an analysis of two different approaches used in guidelines and by the courts to determine the best interests of infants. Part 3 considers a further question raised by developments in neuroimaging and prognosis: what implications would the development of this machine have for the law and for practice?

Keywords: neuroimaging; newborns; brain damage; life support; impairments

Chapter.  11450 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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