I graduated with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Leeds in 2001. Having previously taught at Leeds, York and Manchester Universities, I joined Keele University as a Lecturer in Philosophy in 2002, then became Lecturer in Ethics in the Centre for Professional Ethics (PEAK) in 2004, before becoming Senior Lecturer in Ethics in the School of Law in 2012 and finally Professor of Ethics in 2018. I have also held a Research Fellowship for a project on ‘Hope and Death’ as part of the Hope-Optimism Project at Cornell and Notre Dame Universities in the USA (2015-16).
I am an ethicist who works primarily in the field of bioethics. My research engages with issues in law, medicine and society from the perspective of analytic philosophy. I focus primarily on ethical and policy issues on the margins of life, including new genetic and reproductive technologies, consent for those who have lost capacity, and end-of-life care. I am also interested in theoretical work on concepts such as harm, vulnerability, personhood, identity, autonomy, hope, and trust.
In recent years, I have worked as an expert ethics advisor for major public policy bodies and government departments, such as the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the National Council for Palliative Care, and Public Health England.
In 2022, I was appointed as a member of the NHS Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Advisory Group.
Research and scholarship
My work divides into three main areas, with a wide range of interests within each:
Biomedical Ethics and Research Ethics:
End of life ethics: end of life care; hope and dying; advance directives and proxy consent; standards for palliative and end-of-life care; dying in restricted environments; organ donation.
Genetics and Reproductive ethics: genetics and genome editing technologies; the non-identity problem; harm to future generations; genetics and identity; emerging reproductive technologies; abortion and personhood.
Concepts in bioethics: concepts of disease and illness (including realism and error-theory about mental illness and genetic conditions); personhood; monstrosity; autonomy and moral authority; vulnerability; hope, trust in medicine.
Research Ethics: research involving vulnerable and terminally ill subjects; consent and proxy consent in research; privacy and confidentiality in research.
The nature of bioethics: counterfactual reasoning in practical ethics; expertise in ethics.
Ethics and Policy/Law:
Global/national regulation of emerging reproductive and genetic technologies; ethical appraisals of legislation and policy governing medicine in areas such as advance directives/proxy decision-making; mental health; end of life care.
Metaphysics, philosophical and applied:
Realism and anti-realism debates; personal identity; conceptual analysis.
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
From 2017-2021, I was the Faculty Director of Postgraduate Studies (Taught and Research) for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Approved lead PhD supervisor, as well as an approved mentor for associate PhD supervisors and independent chair for viva examinations. Extensive track record of supervising research students to completion and of examining research degrees.
I am able to supervise students on a wide range of topics in my areas of research interest. I particularly welcome proposals relating to foundational issues in bioethics, such as questions surrounding issues of death and dying, genetics and reproductive ethics, harm, personal identity, matters relating to extended decision-making (e.g. the limits of autonomy, advance directives, proxy consent), and the analysis of concepts in bioethics.
Taught Postgraduate (PgDip/MA)
I was Director of Taught Postgraduate Studies for the School of Law from 2016-2021.
Much of my current teaching is concentrated on the MA in Medical Ethics and Law and the MA in Medical Ethics and Palliative Care. I am able to supervise MA dissertations on both these programmes.
I also teach on the Healthcare Ethics and Law module for the MMedSci and the MA in Safeguarding Adults: Law, Policy and Practice. I have previously taught on a wide range of Masters Programmes, including the Ethics of Social Welfare, Ethics of Policing and Criminal Justice, and the Ethics of Medical Research and Biotechnology.
I have taught an extensive range of undergraduate modules in philosophy and applied ethics.
Training for Ethics Committee Members and Practitioners
As Director of the Knowledge Transfer Research Ethics Training Programme (2007-11), I developed and delivered numerous training sessions and programmes for members of research ethics committees and practitioners. These have been delivered in locations across the UK and Eire and include Research Ethics Committee training for NHS RECs and Research Ethics Committee training for University RECs.
- Editorial Review Board Member for Journal of Medical Law and Ethics
- Editor (with Nicky Priaulx, Cardiff University) of Ethics, Law and Society series Vol. V, published by Ashgate
- Member of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Peer Review College
- Referee for: Mind; The Australasian Journal of Philosophy; Synthese; Theoria; Ethical Theory and Moral Practice; The Journal of Applied Philosophy; The Journal of Medical Ethics; Bioethics; Medicine, Healthcare and Philosophy; The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry; Public Health Ethics; British Medical Journal (End-of-Life), Health Care Analysis; Medical Law Review; Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics; Res Philosophica; The American Journal of Bioethics,
- Reviewing of books for Blackwell, OUP, Polity, and Routledge publishers.
- Reviewing of grant applications for the Wellcome Trust; ZonMw (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development); Leverhulme Trust; British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society cross-disciplinary award scheme.
University of Bristol
- External Examiner for the MSc in Healthcare Ethics and Law (2012 - 2015)
University of Hull
- External Examiner for the MA in Applied Ethics (2010 - 2015)
- External Examiner for the MRes in Philosophy (2013 - 2015)
Dublin City University
- External Examiner for the MA in Ethics (2018-)
- External Examiner for the MA in Ethics (Corporate Responsibility) (2018 -)
University of Lancaster
- External Examiner for the MA in Philosophy (2018-)
- External Examiner for the MA in Philosophy and Religion (2018-)
- External Examiner for the MA in Politics, Philosophy and Religion (2018-)
- External Examiner for the MA in Politics and Philosophy (2018-)
- External Examiner for the MSc in Politics, Philosophy and Management (2018-)