Citations (4)


Footnotes (307)



Therapeutic Forgetting: The Legal and Ethical Implications of Memory Dampening

Adam J. Kolber

Brooklyn Law School

Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 59, p. 1561, 2006
San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-37

Neuroscientists have made significant advances in identifying drugs to dampen the intensity of traumatic memories. Such drugs hold promise for victims of terrorism, military conflict, assault, car accidents, and natural disasters who might otherwise suffer for many years from intense, painful memories. In 2003, the President's Council on Bioethics released a report entitled Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness, which analyzed memory dampening in some detail. While the Council acknowledged the potential benefits of memory dampening, some Council members were concerned that it may: (1) discourage us from authentically coping with trauma, (2) tamper with personal identity, (3) demean the genuineness of human life and experience, (4) encourage us to forget memories that we are obligated to keep, and (5) inure us to the pain of others.

In this Article, I describe possible legal and ethical implications of memory dampening. For example, I note that traumatic events frequently lead to legal proceedings that rely on memories of those events. Drugs that dampen traumatic memories may someday test the boundaries between an individual's right to medically modify his memories and society's right to stop him from altering valuable evidence. More broadly, I respond to the Council by arguing that many of its concerns are founded on controversial premises that unjustifiably privilege our natural cognitive abilities. While memory dampening may eventually require thoughtful regulation, broad-brushed restrictions are unjustified: We have a deeply personal interest in controlling our own minds that entitles us to a certain freedom of memory.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 66

Keywords: Memory, Memory Dampening, Propranolol, Bioethics, Neuroethics, President's Council on Bioethics

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: March 2, 2006 ; Last revised: March 14, 2011

Suggested Citation

Kolber, Adam J., Therapeutic Forgetting: The Legal and Ethical Implications of Memory Dampening. Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 59, p. 1561, 2006; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-37. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=887061

Contact Information

Adam Jason Kolber (Contact Author)
Brooklyn Law School ( email )
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 18,561
Downloads: 2,753
Download Rank: 2,436
Citations:  4
Footnotes:  307

© 2015 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo8 in 0.296 seconds