Objective: Recently there has been emerging clinical and research interest in the application of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to the treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN). To our knowledge, few studies have discussed ethical aspects associated with the increased use of neuromodulation in AN, some of which are quite specific to AN, despite the rapid development and dissemination of these new technologies.
Method: We provide a brief overview of three published rTMS studies for AN and discuss ethical issues involved in the use of neuromodulation for AN.
Results: In contrast to neurosurgery or DBS, rTMS is a less invasive technique, with less associated risk, and thus has greater potential to become a more widespread augmentation or add-on therapy for AN. New therapeutic procedures are promising, yet they raise ethical questions regarding informed consent and patient selection. Illness-specific issues surrounding authenticity and autonomy are important to consider, ensuring an ethical approach to treatment for patients with AN.
Discussion: We argue that ethical investigations for neuromodulation techniques are timely and important, and discussions should go beyond the immediate goals of patient safety, consent, and risk and benefit, to consider broader ethical concepts such as authenticity and autonomy.