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April 2022

Special Article

This paper was written by Roland Chia on behalf of the National Council of Churches of Singapore in response to the consultation paper published by the Bioethics Advisory Committee entitled ‘Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Neuroscience Research’ on 9 January 2013.

The National Council of Churches would like to thank the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) for preparing this consultation paper on neuroscience and its applications and for the invitation to respond to it. There can be no doubt that some of the most innovative and exciting work in contemporary medicine is in the area of neuroscience and its impact on psychiatry, neurology and neurosurgery. But the significant advances in the study of the human brain and the various technologies they have spawned do not only have their application in medicine. Neuroimaging in the form of computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that can reveal several pathologies have also been used to ascertain the ability of an offender to control behaviour. These technologies and techniques, therefore, have profound implications on how society should respond to offenders with a diminished sense of responsibility due to compromised brain functions (for example, lesions in the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain that may result in antisocial behaviour).

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Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor at Trinity Theological College (Singapore) and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.