As neural implants transition from engineering design and testing into human subjects research, careful consideration must be paid to the ethical elements in developing research protocols. Although these ethical aspects may be framed by the design choices of the engineering, a number of challenging choices arise. In spite of many ethical considerations for neural implant technologies being shared with generic research ethics questions, there are subsets needing special attention. Even in considerations requiring increased attention, substantial overlap can be found with research ethics questions for general medical implants and for psychiatric pharmaceuticals. The special attention to specific ethical questions in neural implants exists because of the value placed on preserving cognition and control as well as our continued memory of significant past research abuses in neurosurgery. This paper focuses on three issues of particular saliency to neural implant testing: inclusion/exclusion of subjects with psychiatric conditions, consent withdrawal of research subjects, and enhancement as a goal.
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