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This article explores the ethical and legal implications of enrolling individuals with disorders of consciousness (DOC) in neuroimaging research studies. Many scientists have strongly emphasized the need for additional neuroimaging research into DOC, characterizing the conduct of such studies as morally imperative. On the other hand, institutional review boards charged with approving research protocols, scientific journals deciding whether to publish study results, and federal agencies that disburse grant money have limited the conduct, publication, and funding of consciousness investigations based on ethical and legal concerns. Following a detailed examination of the risks and benefits of neuroimaging research involving individuals with DOC, the author urges IRBs, scientific journals, and funding agencies to no longer stall the conduct, publication, and funding of neuroimaging research into DOC if certain criteria designed to protect the health and safety of individuals with DOC are satisfied.

Publication Citation

Tovino, Stacey A., Neuroimaging Research into Disorders of Consciousness: Moral Imperative or Ethical and Legal Failure? (December 31, 2008). Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2008.