Ethical considerations in the surgical and neuromodulatory treatment of epilepsy

Nathan A. Shlobin*, Justin M. Campbell, Joshua M. Rosenow, John D. Rolston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Surgical resection and neuromodulation are well-established treatments for those with medically refractory epilepsy. These treatments entail important ethical considerations beyond those which extend to the treatment of epilepsy generally. In this paper, the authors explore these unique considerations through a framework that relates foundational principles of bioethics to features of resective epilepsy surgery and neuromodulation. The authors conducted a literature review to identify ethical considerations for a variety of epilepsy surgery procedures and to examine how foundational principles in bioethics may inform treatment decisions. Healthcare providers should be cognizant of how an increased prevalence of somatic and psychiatric comorbidities, the dynamic nature of symptom burden over time, the individual and systemic barriers to treatment, and variable sociocultural contexts constitute important ethical considerations regarding the use of surgery or neuromodulation for the treatment of epilepsy. Moreover, careful attention should be paid to how resective epilepsy surgery and neuromodulation relate to notions of patient autonomy, safety and privacy, and the shared responsibility for device management and maintenance. A three-tiered approach—(1) gathering information and assessing the risks and benefits of different treatment options, (2) clear communication with patient or proxy with awareness of patient values and barriers to treatment, and (3) long-term decision maintenance through continued identification of gaps in understanding and provision of information—allows for optimal treatment of the individual person with epilepsy while minimizing disparities in epilepsy care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108524
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Deep-brain stimulation
  • Epilepsy surgery
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neurostimulation
  • Responsive neurostimulation
  • Vagus nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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