Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Return of Lombroso? Free Access Article On the Ethics of the Scientific Vision of Screening for Risk of Criminality to Prevent Future Crime

One of my research interests is about the way in which medical science and technology may be used and misused for large-scale societal aims, and how that territory should be understood ethically. In Gothenburg, I am happy to be and have been part of the growing research environment of the Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health (CELAM), involving collaboration between forensic psychiatry, criminology, psychology, law, neuromedicine, political and care science, philosophy and ethics. In a freesh article coming out of this collaboration, by myself and CELAM director Susanna Radovic, a family of visionary and currently popular ideas – advocated not least by neurocriminology enthusiast Adrian Raine – about using the science of individual causes of crime for preventive screening programmes are analyzed from an ethical standpoint, connecting to the roots of such visions in the notorious ideas of 19th century Italian criminology pioneer Cesare Lombroso. The abstract runs:

The vision of legendary criminologist Cesare Lombroso to use scientific theories of individual causes of crime as a basis for screening and prevention programmes targeting individuals at risk for future criminal behaviour has resurfaced, following advances in genetics, neuroscience and psychiatric epidemiology. This article analyses this idea and maps its ethical implications from a public health ethical standpoint. Twenty-seven variants of the new Lombrosian vision of forensic screening and prevention are distinguished, and some scientific and technical limitations are noted. Some lures, biases and structural factors, making the application of the Lombrosian idea likely in spite of weak evidence are pointed out and noted as a specific type of ethical aspect. Many classic and complex ethical challenges for health screening programmes are shown to apply to the identified variants and the choice between them, albeit with peculiar and often provoking variations. These variations are shown to actualize an underlying theoretical conundrum in need of further study, pertaining to the relationship between public health ethics and the ethics and values of criminal law policy.

We have been fortunate to possess the funds of making the article so-called open access, meaning that it is now free for viewing and download by anyone – no need for subscription or the payment of any fees.

So if the topic of how medicine, science and technology can be used, for better of for worse, for preventing crime, and what are th ethical implications of such possibilities, feel free to sample our attempt at getting an initial grip on trhis topic, here. And should you want to share it along, or post it on a blog or a forum or in an archive, the open access license permits you to do so, as long as no commercial exploitation is involved.