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Should violent offenders be forced to undergo neurotechnological treatment? A critical discussion of the ‘freedom of thought’ objection


In this paper we examine one reason for rejecting the view that violent offenders should be forced to undergo neurotechnological treatments (NTs) involving such therapies as psychoactive medication to curb violent behaviour. The reason is based on the concern that forced treatment violates the offender's right to freedom of thought. We argue that this objection can be challenged. First, we present some specifications of what a right to freedom of thought might mean. We focus on the recently published views of Jared Craig, and Jan Cristopher Bublitz and Reinhard Merkel. Second, we argue that forcing violent offenders to undergo certain kinds of NTs may not violate the offender's right to freedom of thought as that right is specified by Craig, and Bublitz and Merkel. Third, even if non-consensual NT is used in a way that does violate freedom of thought, such use can be difficult to abandon without inconsistency. For if one is not an abolitionist, and therefore accepts traditional state punishments for violent offenders like imprisonment—which, the evidence shows, often violate the offender's right to freedom of thought—then, it is argued, one will have reason to accept that violent offenders can legitimately be forced to undergo NT even if doing so denies them the right to freedom of thought.

  • Autonomy
  • Coercion
  • Confidentiality/Privacy
  • Neuroethics

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