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Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of Deep Brain Stimulation – Health, Quality of Life and Personal Identity (ELSA-DBS)

This project will examine ethical, legal and social aspects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the horizons of the concepts of health, quality of life and personal identity. There are three subprojects, tackling the issues concerned from an interdisciplinary perspective:

The first subproject deals with empirical dimensions of health, quality of life and personal identity of patients undergoing DBS for movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and dystonia as well as for psychiatric disorders like Tourette´s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder and behavioural problems like addiction. Patients as well as their caregivers will be comprehensively examined by semistructured qualitative interviews and quantitative questionnaires. These will be repeatedly administered. Both interviews and questionnaires will be developed and evaluated under the scrutiny of all disciplines involved in the project, thus taking ethically and legally relevant aspects into account from the very beginning, integrating them into acquiring the empirical data.

The second subproject will focus on ethical aspects by reconsidering the concepts of health, quality of life and personal identity with regard to DBS for different health conditions. It analyses and discusses known and possible impacts of DBS on dimensions of acting persons that are central to their flourishing as moral subjects. Against this background, the consequences for appropriate conditions of health care concerning DBS in different patient groups and aspects of enhancement will be considered. Central issues particularly arise in the context of an increasingly early application of DBS in different patient groups, with regard to psychiatric disorders even in minors and to behavioural disorders like addiction.

The third subproject is concerned with legal aspects of DBS with specific respect to the aforementioned benchmarks. The analysis pertains to, among others, prerequisites for treatment, requirements of counselling and informed consent, limits for self-manipulation, differentiation of medical therapy and enhancement, as well as medical malpractice and litigation. Differentiation of patient groups and aspects of future development will be given attention. Integrating ethical, social and legal aspects and reflecting the differences in German and Canadian law, criteria for the necessary balance of all interests at stake and their best legal protection can be advanced.

The cooperation between Germany and Canada will provide the opportunity to integrate two of the worldwide leading centres for DBS with the ethical and legal perspective of both countries taking into account the international discussion about an innovative and challenging subject.


International Meeting February 3, 2012
Cologne, Germany

For further information see:



Joint Project Coordinator
Prof. Dr. Christiane Woopen (Research Center in Ethics)

Subproject Leader
Germany – University Hospital and University of Cologne

Prof. Dr. Lars Timmermann (Department of Neurology );
Dr. Jens Kuhn (Department of psychiatry and psychotherapy);
Prof. Dr. Christian Katzenmeier (Institute of Medical Law);
Prof. Dr. Christiane Woopen (Research Center in Ethics)

Canada – University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital

Elena Moro MD PhD (Movement Disorders Centre, Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology);
Mateus Zurowski MD MSc FRCPC (Neuropsychiatry Clinic);
Kyle Anstey PhD (Center for Bioethics)

Bearbeiterinnen und Bearbeiter in Köln
Franziska Meier; Dr. Christiane Reck; Dr. Dorothee Dörr; Karsten Witt; Nina Horstkötter M.Sc.; Elena Höfener; Eun-Hae Kim; Jens Prütting

Förderung durch das Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Laufzeit: 2008 - 2011