- Published: June 8, 2015
Despite the recent downward trend of U.S. law guiding international law, U.S. Supreme Court cases have traditionally served as a reference for foreign courts since World War II (Liptak). For example, Canada and Australia are among the many countries whose foreign courts have relied on U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The issues that U.S. law has influenced have included questions ranging from possession of pornography to separation-of-powers, and given the recent advancements of law as applied to neuroscience, or neurolaw, it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions employing neurolaw will serve as a model for the international community as the world embraces the contributions and perils of neuroscience.
The use of chemical agents, such as calmatives, against Chechen terrorists in the 2002 Moscow Theater incident (“Moscow Theater Hostage”) raised questions regarding the use of drugs to manipulate human consciousness. In an article titled “The security impact of neurosciences,” Huang and Kosal wrote that:
"The use of calmative agents in warfare would challenge the [Chemical Weapons Convention] and because they manipulate human consciousness, calmatives could also pose threats to fundamental human rights, including freedom of thought." (Huang & Kosal)
Huang and Kosal go on to explain that the scant number of existing international treaties, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, insufficiently govern neuroscience’s research endeavors and has effectively created a “vacuum in international governance.”
This “vacuum in international governance” will result in efforts by many countries to pioneer the manner in which neurolaw will attempt to regulate the acceptable applications of neuroscience in cases ranging from neuropharmacology to chemical warfare. Thus, we have an example that demonstrates neurolaw is not just an issue on the domestic agenda relegated for understanding criminal behavior. In actuality, neurolaw is an important emerging field with huge global implications that U.S. legal interpretation will undoubtedly influence.
Liptak, Adam. “U.S. Court Is Now Guiding Fewer Nations.” 17 Sept 2008. Nytimes.com. 1 Dec 2008 <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/us/18legal.html?>.
The Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis: Incapacitants and Chemical Warfare.” 4 Nov 2002. James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. 1 Dec 2008 <http://cns.miis.edu/stories/02110b.htm>.
Huang, Jonathan Y. and Margaret E. Kosal. “The security impact of the neurosciences.” 20 June 2008. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 1 Dec 2008 <http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/the-security-impact-of-the-neurosciences>.