•  423
    The body as unwarranted life support: a new perspective on euthanasia
    Journal of Medical Ethics 33 (9): 519-521. 2007.
    It is widely accepted in clinical ethics that removing a patient from a ventilator at the patient’s request is ethically permissible. This constitutes voluntary passive euthanasia. However, voluntary active euthanasia, such as giving a patient a lethal overdose with the intention of ending that patient’s life, is ethically proscribed, as is assisted suicide, such as providing a patient with lethal pills or a lethal infusion. Proponents of voluntary active euthanasia and assisted suicide have arg…Read more
  •  359
    Euthanasia and Eudaimonia
    Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (9): 530-533. 2009.
    This paper re-evaluates euthanasia and assisted suicide from the perspective of eudaimonia, the ancient Greek conception of happiness across one’s whole life. It is argued that one cannot be said to have fully flourished or had a truly happy life if one’s death is preceded by a period of unbearable pain or suffering that one cannot avoid without assistance in ending one’s life. While death is to be accepted as part of life, it should not be left to nature to dictate the way we die, and it is fun…Read more
  •  337
    Cryoethics: Seeking life after death
    Bioethics 23 (9): 515-521. 2009.
    Cryonic suspension is a relatively new technology that offers those who can afford it the chance to be 'frozen' for future revival when they reach the ends of their lives. This paper will examine the ethical status of this technology and whether its use can be justified. Among the arguments against using this technology are: it is 'against nature', and would change the very concept of death; no friends or family of the 'freezee' will be left alive when he is revived; the considerable expense inv…Read more
  •  253
    Lessons From the German Organ Scandal
    Journal of the Intensive Care Society 14 (3): 200-1. 2013.
    Doctors at four German hospitals have been suspended from their posts following internal investigations which alleged that they had been manipulating the organ transplant allocation system in order to help their patients get donor livers more quickly. It is alleged that doctors exaggerated the severity of their patients’ conditions so that they would be accorded higher priority for receiving organs, but there may also have been manipulation of medical records, deception of patients and potentia…Read more
  •  218
    Response: A defence of a new perspective on euthanasia
    Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (2): 123-125. 2011.
    In two recent papers, Hugh McLachlan, Jacob Busch and Raffaele Rodogno have criticised my new perspective on euthanasia. Each paper analyses my argument and suggests two flaws. McLachlan identifies what he sees as important points regarding the justification of legal distinctions in the absence of corresponding moral differences and the professional role of the doctor. Busch and Rodogno target my criterion of brain life, arguing that it is a necessary but not sufficient condition and that it is …Read more
  •  178
    Justice and the Fetus: Rawls, Children, and Abortion
    Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 20 (1): 93-101. 2011.
    In a footnote to the first edition of Political Liberalism, John Rawls introduced an example of how public reason could deal with controversial issues. He intended this example to show that his system of political liberalism could deal with such problems by considering only political values, without the introduction of comprehensive moral doctrines. Unfortunately, Rawls chose “the troubled question of abortion” as the issue that would illustrate this. In the case of abortion, Rawls argued, “the …Read more
  •  178
    Reducing the harmful effects of alcohol misuse: the ethics of sobriety testing in criminal justice
    with Karyn McCluskey, Will Linden, and Christine Goodall
    Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (11): 669-671. 2012.
    Alcohol use and abuse play a major role in both crime and negative health outcomes in Scotland. This paper provides a description and ethical and legal analyses of a novel remote alcohol monitoring scheme for offenders which seeks to reduce alcohol-related harm to both the criminal and the public. It emerges that the prospective benefits of this scheme to health and public order vastly outweigh any potential harms.
  •  171
    The Ethics of Spoilers
    Ethical Space 8 (1). 2011.
    It is highly probable that you have fallen victim to a spoiler at some point in your life. Perhaps you heard what the twist was in The Sixth Sensei before you saw it, or perhaps you have come across one of the now near-ubiquitous references in the media to Keyzer Soze, and thus had much of your enjoyment of The Usual Suspectsii ruined. Put simply, a spoiler is a piece of information that spoils your enjoyment of a film, usually by revealing a key plot detail. This paper argues that those working…Read more
  •  131
    Prescribing placebos ethically: the appeal of negatively informed consent
    Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (2): 97-99. 2009.
    Kihlbom has recently argued that a system of seeking negatively informed consent might be preferable in some cases to the ubiquitous informed consent model. Although this theory is perhaps not powerful enough to supplant informed consent in most settings, it lends strength to Evans’ and Hungin’s proposal that it can be ethical to prescribe placebos rather than "active" drugs. This paper presents an argument for using negatively informed consent for the specific purpose of authorising the use of …Read more
  •  128
    Cryoethics
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), International Encyclopaedia of Ethics, Blackwell. 2013.
    Cryoethics is a new theme within bioethics (see bioethics) concerned with the ethics of cryonic storage. Cryonics, which is also erroneously referred to as “cryogenic” technology, offers people the option of having their bodies or brain-stems preserved at very low temperatures after death in order to be revived at some point in the future when technology is sufficiently advanced to enable reanimation, and possibly immortality. The main issues in cryoethics center around whether it is ethical to …Read more
  •  125
    Mandeville and colleagues describe a fascinating case where Facebook was used to warn potential contacts that their acquaintance had a communicable disease (Mandeville et al., 2013). They are correct that this case raises important issues about social media, confidentiality and the prevention of harm. However, they underestimate both the dangers of overcommunication via Wall and Timeline postings (and Twitter) and the potential utility of Facebook in cases like this one. Increased awareness of F…Read more
  •  121
    Ethics, Professionalism and Fitness to Practice: Three Concepts, Not One
    British Dental Journal 207 (2): 59-62. 2009.
    The GDC’s recent third edition (interim) of The First Five Years places renewed emphasis on the place of professionalism in the undergraduate dental curriculum. This paper provides a brief analysis of the concepts of ethics, professionalism and fitness to practice, and an examination of the GDC’s First Five Years and Standards for Dental Professionals guidance, as well as providing an insight into the innovative ethics strand of the BDS course at the University of Glasgow. It emerges that GDC gu…Read more
  •  117
    A direct advance on advance directives
    Bioethics 26 (5): 267-274. 2012.
    Advance directives (ADs), which are also sometimes referred to as ‘living wills’, are statements made by a person that indicate what treatment she should not be given in the event that she is not competent to consent or refuse at the future moment in question. As such, ADs provide a way for patients to make decisions in advance about what treatments they do not want to receive, without doctors having to find proxy decision-makers or having recourse to the doctrine of necessity. While patients ca…Read more
  •  108
    Homeopathic medicine is based on the two principles that “like cures like” and that the potency of substances increases in proportion to their dilution. In November 2009 the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee heard evidence on homeopathy, with several witnesses arguing that homeopathic practice is “unethical, unreliable, and pointless”. Although this increasing scepticism about the merits of homeopathy is to be welcomed, the unethical effects of funding homeopathy on the NHS are …Read more
  •  99
    Dentistry and the ethics of infection
    Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (3): 184-187. 2008.
    Currently, any dentist in the UK who is HIV-seropositive must stop treating patients. This is despite the fact that hepatitis B-infected dentists with a low viral load can continue to practise, and the fact that HIV is 100 times less infectious than hepatitis B. Dentists are obliged to treat HIV-positive patients, but are obliged not to treat any patients if they themselves are HIV-positive. Furthermore, prospective dental students are now screened for hepatitis B and C and HIV, and are not allo…Read more
  •  97
    Deaf by design: Disability and impartiality
    Bioethics 22 (8): 407-413. 2008.
    In 'Benefit, Disability and the Non-Identity Problem', Hallvard Lillehammer uses the case of a couple who chose to have deaf children to argue against the view that impartial perspectives can provide an exhaustive account of the rightness and wrongness of particular reproductive choices. His conclusion is that the traditional approach to the non-identity problem leads to erroneous conclusions about the morality of creating disabled children. This paper will show that Lillehammer underestimates t…Read more
  •  95
    This article highlights the often overlooked fact that doctors who respect a bereaved family's veto of a deceased patient's organ donation are complicit in the deaths of those who would have benefited from the organs in question. Respecting the veto violates the dying wish of the patient, is against the spirit of the law and contributes to the deaths of other patients.
  •  86
    Oncologists frequently have to break bad news to patients. Although they are not normally the ones who tell patients that they have cancer, they are the ones who have to tell patients that treatment is not working, and they are almost always the ones who have to tell them that they are going to die and that nothing more can be done to cure them. Perhaps the most difficult cases are those where further treatment is almost certainly futile, but there remains an extremely slim chance of yet more ag…Read more
  •  66
    CRISPR and the Rebirth of Synthetic Biology
    with Raheleh Heidari and Bernice Simone Elger
    Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (2): 351-363. 2017.
    Emergence of novel genome engineering technologies such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat has refocused attention on unresolved ethical complications of synthetic biology. Biosecurity concerns, deontological issues and human right aspects of genome editing have been the subject of in-depth debate; however, a lack of transparent regulatory guidelines, outdated governance codes, inefficient time-consuming clinical trial pathways and frequent misunderstanding of the scient…Read more
  •  64
    Homeopathy and Medical Ethics
    Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 16 (1): 17-21. 2011.
    Homeopathy has been the subject of intense academic, media and public debate in recent months. Those opposed to the practice, which treats like with like by using ultra-dilute remedies, argue that it is an ineffective non-treatment that is not supported by evidence and should not be funded on the National Health Service. Its proponents claim that it is effective (although they disagree about whether it is more effective than placebo) and argue its use is appropriate for certain conditions. This…Read more
  •  61
    Unethical Aspects of Homeopathic Dentistry
    British Dental Journal 209 (10): 493-496. 2010.
    In the last year there has been a great deal of public debate about homeopathy. The House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology concluded in November that there is no evidence base for homeopathy, and agreed with some academic commentators that homeopathy should not be funded by the NHS.i ii While homeopathic doctors and hospitals are quite commonplace, some might be surprised to learn that there are also many homeopathic dentists practicing in the UK. This paper examines some of…Read more
  •  61
    Rawls and Religious Paternalism
    with J. Busch
    Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37 (4): 373-386. 2012.
    MacDougall has argued that Rawls’s liberal social theory suggests that parents who hold certain religious convictions can legitimately refuse blood transfusion on their children’s behalf. This paper argues that this is wrong for at least five reasons. First, MacDougall neglects the possibility that true freedom of conscience entails the right to choose one’s own religion rather than have it dictated by one’s parents. Second, he conveniently ignores the fact that children in such situations are m…Read more
  •  56
    Neuroenhancers, addiction and research ethics
    Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (10): 605-608. 2012.
    In their recent paper in this journal, Heinz and colleagues accuse proponents of cognitive enhancement of making two unjustified assumptions. The first of these is the assumption that neuroenhancing drugs will be safe; the second is that research into cognitive enhancement does not pose particular ethical problems. Heinz and colleagues argue that both these assumptions are false. Here, I argue that these assumptions are in fact correct, and that Heinz and colleagues themselves make several assum…Read more
  •  54
    Many ethical issues are posed by public health interventions. Although abstract theorizing about these issues can be useful, it is the application of ethical theory to real cases which will ultimately be of benefit in decision-making. To this end, this paper will analyse the ethical issues involved in Childsmile, a national oral health demonstration programme in Scotland that aims to improve the oral health of the nation's children and reduce dental inequalities through a combination of targeted…Read more
  •  50
    Genetic Morality
    Peter Lang. 2006.
    This book will attempt to show that these and other problems are ultimately resolvable, given careful and unbiased application of established ethical principles ...
  •  48
    Current General Medical Council guidelines state that any doctor who does not wish to carry out a non-therapeutic circumcision (NTC) on a boy must invoke conscientious objection. This paper argues that this is illogical, as it is clear that an ethical doctor will object to conducting a clinically unnecessary operation on a child who cannot consent simply because of the parents’ religious beliefs. Comparison of the GMC guidelines with the more sensible British Medical Association guidance reveals…Read more
  •  46
    Transatlantic Issues: Report from Scotland
    Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (3): 310-320. 2010.
    Several bioethical topics received a great deal of news coverage here in Scotland in 2009. Three important issues with transatlantic connections are the swine flu outbreak, which was handled very differently in Scotland, England and America; the US debate over healthcare reform, which drew the British NHS into the controversy; and the release to Libya of the Lockerbie bomber, which at first glance might not seem particularly bioethical, but which actually hinged on the very public discussion of …Read more
  •  43
    Crocodile tiers
    Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (8): 575. 2008.
    It is clearly unethical for the NHS to tell people that they will die sooner unless they pay for private treatment, and then to tell them that if they pay for private treatment they will have to pay the NHS for its insufficient service. This is all the more true if people in other parts of the country are receiving all the drugs they need for the same condition on the NHS. Patients who discover that the NHS care that they have paid for will not keep them alive should be able to supplement their …Read more
  •  39
    The ethics committee as ghost author
    Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (12): 706-706. 2011.
    Ethics committees have a bad reputation for impeding, rather than facilitating research. Here, I argue that many committees actually improve the quality of the research proposal to such an extent that they deserve credit as authors in any resulting publications, or at least an acknowledgement of the contribution made.
  •  39
    Institutional review boards (IRBs) have a reputation for impeding research. This reputation is understandable inasmuch as many studies are poorly designed, exploit participants, or do not ask a relevant question , and it is entirely proper that IRBs should reject such proposals. However, IRBs also frequently reject or tamper with perfectly sound and relevant studies in the name of protecting participants from harm, in accordance with the widely accepted message that “clinical research is justifi…Read more