Memory-Altering Drugs: Shifting the Paradigm of Informed Consent
American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 7, No. 9, 2007
4 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2009 Last revised: 16 Dec 2009
Date Written: 2007
This article argues that patients should be informed of the social effects of taking memory-altering drugs before these drugs are administered. The drug propranolol has been found by some researchers to be effective in reducing the intensity and clarity of memories associated with a traumatic event, thereby reducing the symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, for the drug to be effective, it must be taken within six hours of the traumatic event, which may cause some memories with societal importance to be lost. In particular, memories are essential to the effective administration of justice and may help prevent or ameliorate the effects of future horrific events. For example, lost memories may hinder an investigation, make a person less persuasive as a witness at trial, or affect an individual’s ability to advocate for social change. Current informed consent laws require only that the physician consider the patient’s medical condition when deciding what to disclose. These laws should also require that a patient who is given a memory-altering drug be informed of the potential societal implications of taking the drug.
Keywords: memory-altering drugs, propranolol, Informed Consent, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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