Ferzan and Mutcherson
Summer 2013: meets June 7 and July 25 & 26
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.
Memory raises significant questions for both law and medicine. Should such drugs be available? Under what circumstances? Are health systems obligated to provide these drugs or are they the equivalent of elective surgery?
What obligations and entitlements arise as a result of memory dampening? Does a victim have an obligation to take such medication to mitigate emotional trauma? Should a witness be barred from destroying evidence? May a criminal avoid punishment by taking such medication so that he is no longer the same person? This seminar will include students at the law school and the medical school in examining the legal and ethical implications of memory dampening.
The course will meet for one day in early June. Prior to that meeting students will view Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Memento. Students will also be required to have completed assigned readings, which may include Parfit on Personal Identity, Dresser on Identity and Criminal Responsibility, The President's Council on Bioethics report, Beyond Therapy, and Kolber on Therapeutic Forgetting.
Students will then be assigned individual (or paired) research projects on the issues
raised. Students will complete a rough draft by early July. At the end of July,
will meet for a two day workshop where they will present their papers. Students will
then have until August 10th to revise the papers.