[Mental competence in the context of deep brain stimulation].


In a case of Parkinson's disease, the patient was treated with deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS). STN-DBS affected the mental competence of the patient and ethical questions were raised about the decision as to the direction of further treatment. The patient was asked for his opinion on the therapeutic options during a phase of non-stimulation and chose to be stimulated and admitted to a psychiatric hospital because of mental incompetence rather than remaining unstimulated, mentally competent but bedridden. Developments in the neurosciences (including STN-DBS) raise a number of different fundamental (theoretical and philosophical) as well as practical questions. STN-DBS can have various unintended (behavioural) effects. In the case presented, more weight was rightly given to the mental competence of the unstimulated patient, although comments can be made with regard to his decision making, as his choice was made in a phase of serious distress. Attention is paid to the relevance of a so-called self-binding directive. STN-DBS is not morally neutral and the case involves a tragic dilemma: a conflict between irreconcilable duties for the physician. The further development and proliferation of STN-DBS requires caution and moral deliberation. It remains important to search for alternative treatment strategies with less undesirable side effects.

Cite this paper

@article{Berghmans2004MentalCI, title={[Mental competence in the context of deep brain stimulation].}, author={R. L. P. Berghmans and Guido M. W. R. De Wert}, journal={Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde}, year={2004}, volume={148 28}, pages={1373-5} }