•  141
    Killing people: what Kant could have said about suicide and euthanasia but did not
    Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (10): 571-574. 2006.
    An agent who takes his own life acts in violation of the moral law, according to Kant; suicide, and, by extension, assisted suicide are therefore wrong. By a similar argument, and with a few important exceptions, killing is wrong; implicitly, then, voluntary euthanasia is also wrong. Kant's conclusions are uncompelling and his argument in these matters is undermined on considering other areas of his thought. Kant, in forbidding suicide and euthanasia, is conflating respect for persons and respec…Read more
  •  140
    An Ethics Framework for Big Data in Health and Research
    with Vicki Xafis, G. Owen Schaefer, Markus K. Labude, Angela Ballantyne, Hannah Yeefen Lim, Wendy Lipworth, Tamra Lysaght, Cameron Stewart, Shirley Sun, Graeme T. Laurie, and E. Shyong Tai
    Asian Bioethics Review 11 (3): 227-254. 2019.
    Ethical decision-making frameworks assist in identifying the issues at stake in a particular setting and thinking through, in a methodical manner, the ethical issues that require consideration as well as the values that need to be considered and promoted. Decisions made about the use, sharing, and re-use of big data are complex and laden with values. This paper sets out an Ethics Framework for Big Data in Health and Research developed by a working group convened by the Science, Health and Policy…Read more
  •  92
    The Commission on Assisted Dying was an unofficial body set up to investigate the legal position on assisted dying in the UK in the autumn of 2010. Its report was published to some degree of media attention in the first week of January 2012; its most headline-grabbing suggestion provided a framework setting out how British law might be reformed to allow assisted dying for the terminally ill. In this paper, I analyse some of the key points of the report and argue that it adds little that could se…Read more
  •  89
    Five words for assisted dying
    Law and Philosophy 27 (5). 2008.
    Motivated by Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, but with one eye on any possible future legislation, I consider the justifications that might be offered for limiting assistance in dying to those who are suffering unbearably from terminal illness. I argue that the terminal illness criterion and the unbearable suffering criterion are not morally defensible separately: that a person need be neither terminally ill (or ill at all), nor suffering unbearably (or suffering at all) …Read more
  •  84
    What's wrong with the brain drain (?)
    Developing World Bioethics 12 (3): 113-120. 2012.
    ABSTRACTOne of the characteristics of the relationship between the developed and developing worlds is the ‘brain drain’– the phenomenon by which expertise moves towards richer countries, thereby condemning poorer countries to continued comparative and absolute poverty. It is tempting to see the phenomenon as a moral problem in its own right, such that there is a moral imperative to end it, that is separate from any moral imperative to relieve the burden of poverty. However, it is not clear why t…Read more
  •  70
    The Concept of Autonomy and Its Role in Kantian Ethics
    Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21 (2): 166-176. 2012.
    Among bioethicists, and perhaps ethicists generally, the idea that we are obliged to respect autonomy is something of a shibboleth. Appeals to autonomy are commonly put to work to support legal and moral claims about the importance of consent, but they also feed a wider discourse in which the patient’s desires are granted a very high importance and medical paternalism is regarded as almost self-evidently indefensible
  •  61
    Is there a duty to remain in ignorance?
    Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 32 (2): 101-115. 2011.
    Questions about information inform many debates in bioethics. One of the reasons for this is that at least some level of information is taken by many to be a prerequisite of valid consent. For others, autonomy in the widest sense presupposes information, because one cannot be in control of one’s life without at least some insight into what it could turn out to contain. Yet not everyone shares this view, and there is a debate about whether or not there is a right to remain in ignorance of one’s m…Read more
  •  60
    Enhancing Evolution and "Enhancing Evolution"
    Bioethics 24 (8): 395-402. 2010.
    It has been claimed in several places that the new genetic technologies allow humanity to achieve in a generation or two what might take natural selection hundreds of millennia in respect of the elimination of certain diseases and an increase in traits such as intelligence. More radically, it has been suggested that those same technologies could be used to instil characteristics that we might reasonably expect never to appear due to natural selection alone. John Harris, a proponent of this genom…Read more
  •  60
    What’s the Point of Philosophical Bioethics?
    Health Care Analysis 21 (1): 20-30. 2013.
    Many people working in bioethics take pride in the subject’s embrace of a wide range of disciplines. This invites questions of what in particular is added by each. In this paper, I focus on the role of philosophy within the field: what, if anything, is its unique contribution to bioethics? I sketch out a claim that philosophy is central to bioethics because of its particular analytic abilities, and defend its place within bioethics from a range of sceptical attacks
  •  41
    If Suicide is Painless, is Painlessness Suicide?
    American Journal of Bioethics 11 (6). 2011.
    The American Journal of Bioethics, Volume 11, Issue 6, Page 54-55, June 2011
  •  32
    Genetic information: making a just world strange
    Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 35 (3): 231-246. 2014.
    In an article recently published in this journal, I raised a puzzle about the control of genetic information, suggesting a situation in which it might turn out that we have a duty to remain in ignorance about at least some aspects of our own genome. In this article, I propose a way that would make sense of how the puzzle arises, and offer a way to resolve it and similar puzzles in future: in essence, we would consider genetic information to be something the distribution of which may be more or l…Read more
  •  27
    Defending the duty to research?
    Bioethics 25 (1): 21-26. 2011.
    In 2005, John Harris published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics in which he claimed that there was a duty to support scientific research. With Sarah Chan, he defended his claims against criticisms in this journal in 2008. In this paper I examine the defence, and claim that it is not powerful. Although he has established a slightly stronger position, it is not clear that the defence is sufficiently strong to show that there is a duty to support scientific research. Important questions abo…Read more
  •  20
    On Heidegger, medicine, and the modernity of modern medical technology
    Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10 (2): 185-195. 2006.
    This paper examines medicine’s use of technology in a manner from a standpoint inspired by Heidegger’s thinking on technology. In the first part of the paper, I shall suggest an interpretation of Heidegger’s thinking on the topic, and attempt to show why he associates modern technology with danger. However, I shall also claim that there is little evidence that medicine’s appropriation of modern technology is dangerous in Heidegger’s sense, although there is no prima facie reason why it mightn’t …Read more
  •  20
    ABSTRACTJohn Harris suggests that participation in or support for research, particularly medical research, is a moral duty. One kind of defence of this position rests on an appeal to the past, and produces two arguments. The first of these arguments is that it is unfair to accept the benefits of research without contributing something back in the form of support for, or participation in, research. A second argument is that we have a social duty to maintain those practices and institutions that s…Read more
  •  13
    On Rights of Inheritance and Bequest
    The Journal of Ethics 23 (2): 119-142. 2019.
    What attitude would a just state take to the inheritance of property? Would confiscatory taxes on the estate of the deceased be morally acceptable, or would they represent some kind of wrong? While there is a good amount of political philosophical scholarship that considers the desirability of inheritance tax, there appears to be little that has considered it from the perspective of rights theory, asking what kind of thing a right to bequeath or to inherit would be, and whether those putative ri…Read more
  •  13
    The case for a duty to research: not yet proven
    Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (5): 329-330. 2014.
    In this commentary on ‘Why participating in scientific research is a moral duty’, I take issue with a number of Stjernschantz Forsberg et al's claims. Though abiding by the terms of a contract might be obligatory, this won't show that those terms themselves indicate a duty—even allowing that there's a contract to begin with. Meanwhile, though we might have reasons to participate, not all reasons are moral reasons, and the paper does not establish that the reasons here are moral in character
  •  13
    Perchance to Dream: Pathology, Pharmacology, and Politics in a 24-Hour Economy
    Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 27 (2): 295-305. 2018.
  •  12
    Actions, causes, and psychiatry: a reply to Szasz
    Journal of Medical Ethics 28 (2): 120-123. 2002.
    In a recent paper, it was argued forcefully by Thomas Szasz that it is crucial to the scientific credibility of psychiatry that it abandon talk of the behaviour of the mentally “ill” in terms of causes: such behaviour is not caused by their condition—it simply has reasons, which are discounted by the medical model. It is argued in this paper that Szasz's theory is incomplete for two reasons: first, in assuming that reasons are radically different from causes, it cannot account for the possibilit…Read more
  •  12
    Correction to: On Rights of Inheritance and Bequest
    The Journal of Ethics 23 (2): 143-143. 2019.
    The article “On Rights of Inheritance and Bequest”, written by “Iain Brassington”, was originally published electronically on the publisher’s Internet portal on 23 April 2019 without open access.
  •  12
    John Harris' argument for a duty to research
    Bioethics 21 (3): 160-168. 2007.
    ABSTRACTJohn Harris suggests that participation in or support for research, particularly medical research, is a moral duty. One kind of defence of this position rests on an appeal to the past, and produces two arguments. The first of these arguments is that it is unfair to accept the benefits of research without contributing something back in the form of support for, or participation in, research. A second argument is that we have a social duty to maintain those practices and institutions that s…Read more
  •  10
    What passive euthanasia is
    BMC Medical Ethics 21 (1): 1-13. 2020.
    BackgroundEuthanasia can be thought of as being either active or passive; but the precise definition of “passive euthanasia” is not always clear. Though all passive euthanasia involves the withholding of life-sustaining treatment, there would appear to be some disagreement about whether all such withholding should be seen as passive euthanasia.Main textAt the core of the disagreement is the question of the importance of an intention to bring about death: must one intend to bring about the death …Read more
  •  10
    What a drag it is getting old: a response to Räsänen
    Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (7): 467-468. 2019.
    In this brief response to Joona Räsänen’s argument for the coherence and desirability of being able legally to change one’s age, I outline a couple of reasons for thinking that the case he makes is deeply flawed. As such, I contend that we have no reason to think that age should be the kind of thing that one should be able to change legally. Moreover, we have at least one good reason for thinking that legal age change would be positively undesirable.
  •  9
    Body art and medical need
    Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (1): 13-16. 2006.
    A company called Biojewellery has proposed to take a sample of bone tissue from a couple and to grow this sample into wedding rings. One of the ethical problems that such a proposal faces is that it implies surgery without medical need. To this end, only couples with a prior need for surgery are being considered. This paper examines the question of whether such a stipulation is necessary. It is suggested that, though medical need and the provision of health and wellbeing is overwhelmingly the wa…Read more
  •  8
    The Topsy-Turvy Cloning Law
    with Stuart Oultram
    Monash Bioethics Review 29 (3): 1-18. 2011.
    In debates about human cloning, a distinction is frequently drawn between therapeutic and reproductive uses of the technology. Naturally enough, this distinction influences the way that the law is framed. The general consensus is that therapeutic cloning is less morally problematic than reproductive cloning — one can hold this position while holding that both are morally unacceptable — and the law frequently leaves the way open for some cloning for the sake of research into new therapeutic techn…Read more
  •  7
    Recruiting medics from the poorest nations? It could be worse...
    Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (10): 610-1. 2013.
    Hidalgo's paper is a clear and powerful contribution to a topic of ongoing concern.1 It should be taken seriously by anyone who worries that there is something seriously wrong with the flow of medical expertise from the poor countries of the South to the rich countries of the North because it forces open the question of just what that wrongness is supposed to be. Being unable to identify the moral problem about migration will not make the problem about poor health in the South go away, of course…Read more
  •  6
    Facial allograft transplants: where's the catch?
    with B. E. White
    Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (10): 723-726. 2008.
    Face transplantation—or, more properly, facial allograft transplantation —generates much public interest and academic debate. In this paper, we suggest that it is up to opponents of FAT to make the case for its impermissibility. We allow that there is a number of apparently strong arguments that might be deployed against FAT. However, all but one of these turn out not to be compelling after examination. The remaining argument is not so easily dismissed—but its central point is fairly workaday an…Read more
  •  4
    Teaching to the converted: religious belief in the seminar room
    Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (11): 678-681. 2006.
    It is not unknown for participants in discussions of ethics to prefix their claims with a profession of their religious faith—to say, for instance, “Well, I’m a Christian/Muslim/whatever, so I think that …”. Other participants in the debate may well worry about how to respond without the risk of giving offence or appearing ad hominem. Within a teaching environment, the worry may be even more acute. Nevertheless, it is suggested in this paper that such worries should not be allowed to impede deba…Read more