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Robert H. Blank

Robert H. Blank is Professor of Political Science at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Research Scholar at New College of Florida. His books include Brain Policy, Comparative Health Policy (with Viola Burau), and End of Life Decision-Making: A Cross-National Study (coedited with Janna Merrick; MIT Press, 2005).

Titles by This Author

Politics, Policy, and Ethics

New findings in neuroscience have given us unprecedented knowledge about the workings of the brain. Innovative research—much of it based on neuroimaging results—suggests not only treatments for neural disorders but also the possibility of increasingly precise and effective ways to predict, modify, and control behavior. In this book, Robert Blank examines the complex ethical and policy issues raised by our new capabilities of intervention in the brain.

After surveying current knowledge about the brain and describing a wide range of experimental and clinical interventions—from behavior-modifying drugs to neural implants to virtual reality—Blank discusses the political and philosophical implications of these scientific advances. If human individuality is simply a product of a network of manipulable nerve cell connections, and if aggressive behavior is a treatable biochemical condition, what happens to our conceptions of individual responsibility, autonomy, and free will? In light of new neuroscientific possibilities, Blank considers such topics as informed consent, addiction, criminal justice, racism, commercial and military applications of neuroscience research, new ways to define death, and political ideology and partisanship.

Our political and social institutions have not kept pace with the rapid advances in neuroscience. This book shows why the political issues surrounding the application of this new research should be debated before interventions in the brain become routine.

Titles by This Editor

A Cross-National Study

This examination of end-of-life decision making offers a broader perspective than that found in the extensive existing literature on this topic by offering a cross-national comparison. Experts from twelve countries analyze death-related issues and policies in their respective nations, discussing such topics as health care costs, advance directives or wills, pain management, and cultural, social, and religious factors. The countries selected for study—Brazil, China, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States—represent a mix of East and West, developed and developing nations seldom considered together in analyses of these issues. This is the first systematic attempt to analyze end-of-life issues in many of these countries; the chapters on China, Kenya (of special significance because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa) and Turkey break new ground.

Each author reports on various factors in end-of-life decisions: estimated costs of dying, including health care costs; the proportion of deaths occurring in hospitals, in hospices, and at home; the prevalence and variety of advance directives; the mix of high technology and palliative care; the cut-off point for aggressive care and the legal definition of death; government policies on end-of-life decisions, assisted suicide, and euthanasia; and cultural, social, and religious influences. The findings show that there are great differences among countries even in the way these issues are framed. Scholars, policymakers, and medical practitioners can all benefit from the extensive information in these essays on how different nations are dealing with death-related issues.