I joined Keele in 2021 as a lecturer working on healthcare law and ethics, mental health law, global health law, ethics, and disability rights. In particular, I am into mental capacity, supported decision-making, consent to treatment, end-of-life choices, dementia, the life and rights of disabled people in various areas of the world and ethical dilemmas during a pandemic. A cheerful Italian by nationality, before landing in Keele, I have enjoyed some academic globetrotting, having previously worked at the Athena Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands), the University of Udine Law School (Italy) and the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol (UK), and I have been on research and fieldwork trips to Germany, Italy, Indonesia and India. I hold an Integrated Master’s degree in Law magna cum Laude from the University of Trieste (Italy) and a PhD in Law from the University of Leeds (UK). Between my Master and the PhD, I have worked for some years in legal practice but then discovered that academia was my true calling. When not buried under piles of books or teaching law to the crowds, you find me singing as a tenor in opera companies and choirs, reviewing shows for specialised blogs, visiting beautiful places, or cooking pasta and lasagne.

Research and scholarship

I study how people make choices and how the law impacts them, in particular in emotionally, practically and ethically challenging situations like that of people in need of care and medical treatment, individuals experiencing dementia, mental disorder or other disabilities, citizens of disadvantaged areas of the world or societies facing a public health crisis. Having worked in legal as well as health science departments, and in practice as well as academia, I adopt a strongly interdisciplinary approach combining doctrinal and empirical (quantitative and qualitative) research, and mixing law with ethics, philosophy, sociology, psychology and all else is interesting and relevant. I have participated in the drafting of reports and consultation papers for the World Health Organisation, the UN Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the European Commission and the UK Law Commission.

If you are thinking about embarking in a PhD in one of my areas of interest, I’d love to hear from you! We’ll have a nice chat and maybe a nice walk together on campus, we’ll see if we are a good fit and if so we’ll embark in this exciting adventure together.

Recent research projects

2021 - 2022: Covid-19 policies and their unequal impact on the rights and dignity of disabled people (principal investigator). Donor: UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator. Partners: Dr. Abigail Pearson, Dr. Laura Pritchard-Jones, Prof. Antony Wrigley.

2020 - 2022: Hospital Triage Protocols in the COVID-19 crisis: a Comparative Review (principal investigator). Donor: Amsterdam Centre for Law and Human Behaviour. Partner: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (NL).

2020 - 2022: Citizens’ Perceptions on Moral Issues in the COVID-19 crisis in The Netherlands, Italy, Indonesia, Kenya and the US (principal investigator). Donors: World Health Organisation, Lazio Local Government, Amsterdam Public Health and Gonzaga University. Partners: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (NL), Amsterdam Medical Centre (NL), Amsterdam Institute for Global Heath and Development (NL), University of Turin (IT), Soetomo General Hospital Surabaya (IN), African Institute of Population Health Nairobi (KE).

2018 - 2019: The Law 291/2017 (Rules on informed consent and Advance Directives): content, innovations, challenges and comparison with foreign experiences (co-recipient). Donor: Italian Ministry of University and Research. Partners: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (NL), Department of Legal Studies of the University of Udine (Italy)

2018 - 2019: Sex, self-reported gender identity and (older) age: Impacts on healthcare disparities and care choices for women with autism in the Netherlands (co-recipient). Donor: ZonMW. Partner Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (NL).


Undergraduate teaching

  • Legal Essentials
  • Healthcare Law
  • Law and Ethics
  • Mental Health Law
  • Disability Law
  • Law of Trusts

Postgraduate teaching

  • MA in Adult Safeguarding Policy and Practice
  • MA in Medical Law and Ethics

Further information


  • Mason Institute at the University of Edinburgh (external member)
  • Oxford Socio-Legal Discussion Group (external member)
  • Socio-Legal Studies Association
  • International Association of Bioethics

Peer reviewing

I have acted as a referee for The Gerontologist, The International Journal of Law and Mental Health, The Journal of Autism Studies, Law and Society Review.

Selected conference presentations

  • De Sabbata K, 2022, ‘Reconciling Best Interests and Will and Preferences: a comparative analysis’, SLSA Annual Conference 2022, York, 6th-8th April
  • De Sabbata K, 2022, ‘Citizens’ perceptions on ethical issues in the COVID-19 crisis: a comparative empirical study’, 14th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law, Porto (PG) 7th-10th March
  • De Sabbata K, 2021, ‘Legal Capacity at the European Court of Human Rights: barriers and potential’, SLSA Annual Conference 2021, Online, 30th March – 1st April
  • De Sabbata K and Syurina E, 2020, ‘Disabled Children and the Right to Participate in Healthcare Related Decision-Making’, Conference The Lives of Children and Adolescents with Disabilities, Leeds, 9th-10th September
  • De Sabbata K and van Oirschot J, 2019, ‘Supported Decision-Making with People with Dementia in the U.S.A.: A multi-stakeholder research exploring opportunities and challenges’, Alzheimer Europe Annual Conference, The Hague (NL), 23rd-25th October
  • Zinkler M and De Sabbata K, 2019, ’Supported Decision-Making in Severe Mental Illness’, International Academy of Law and Mental Health Conference, Rome (IT), 24th July
  • De Sabbata K, 2019, ‘Dementia and Healthcare Choices. Realising Supported Decision-Making in Europe’, Conference Mental Health and Human Rights, Bochum (DE), 1st-5th April
  • Putri A, De Sabbata K, Walker S, De Ballos B, Darlong J and Peters R, 2019, ‘A Qualitative and Participatory Research to Improve the Management of Erythema Nodosum Leprosum’, Leprosy Research Initiative Spring Meeting, Venendaal (NL), 5th-6th April
  • De Sabbata K, 2018, ‘Opera, Madness and the Law. Using Mad Scenes to reflect on Legal Norms on Mental Disability’, SLSA Annual Conference, Bristol (UK), 28th-30th March.
  • De Sabbata K, 2017, ‘Advance Directives, Dementia and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: A new role for Anticipated Will’, Conference Towards a European Understanding of Advance Directives, University of Leeds Law School (UK), 12th September
  • De Sabbata K, 2017, ‘Realising Article 12 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Good Practices from Europe’, SLSA Annual Conference, Newcastle (UK), 5th-7th April
  • De Sabbata K, 2016, ‘Dementia and Treatment Decisions: Implementing Supported Decision-making’, Alzheimer Europe Annual Conference, Copenhagen (DK), 31st October-2nd November
  • De Sabbata K, 2016, ‘Dementia, Dignity and Social Empowerment: Theoretical Implications and Examples from the Dementia-Friendly Communities Programme’, Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, Seoul (SK), 27th-30th June

School of Law
Keele University
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