An unethical way to cure addiction?
Posted on December 13, 2012
Addicted to heroin? Alcohol? Meth? Some neurosurgeons in China claim to have a cure:
How far should doctors go in attempting to cure addiction? In China, some physicians are taking the most extreme measures. By destroying parts of the brain’s “pleasure centers” in heroin addicts and alcoholics, these neurosurgeons hope to stop drug cravings. But damaging the brain region involved in addictive desires risks permanently ending the entire spectrum of natural longings and emotions, including the ability to feel joy.
In 2004, the Ministry of Health in China banned this procedure due to lack of data on long term outcomes and growing outrage in Western media over ethical issues about whether the patients were fully aware of the risks.
However, some doctors were allowed to continue to perform it for research purposes—and recently, a Western medical journal even published a new study of the results. … The November publication has generated a passionate debate in the scientific community over whether such research should be published or kept outside the pages of reputable scientific journals, where it may find undeserved legitimacy and only encourage further questionable science to flourish.
Carl Zimmer outlines all sides of the intense debate on this controversial method here.
(Hat tip to Kenan Malik).