Healthcare Law And Bioethics (HLB)

This research field builds upon the School of Law’s longstanding tradition of excellence in moral philosophy, applied ethics, socio-legal scholarship and Gender, and Sexuality and Law inquiries, as applied to areas of healthcare.

HLB researchers utilize a wide range of theoretical approaches to help address important questions of policy, ethics, and healthcare governance, including regulation theory, analytical philosophy, theories of kinship, analysis of legal rights discourse, theories of distributive justice, Foucauldian analysis, and field studies.

Past and current areas of research in this field include: end-of-life ethics, genetics and reproductive ethics, research ethics, mental health, personhood, and advance directives (Anthony Wrigley); the ethics of resource allocation, risk, end-of-life, conscientious objection in medicine, and autism (Jonathan Hughes); transgender people’s access to health care (Alex Sharpe); reproductive ethics, and the social regulation of sex and gender (Sorcha Uí Chonnachtaigh); genetic medicine, clinical negligence and nondisclosure of risk, neonatal screening and psychiatric injury to parents (Michael Fay); informed consent and injury to autonomy, tort liability and medical innovation, and liability regimes and physicians’ reputation loss (Tsachi Keren-Paz). Mark Eccleston-Turner researches on international responses to pandemics. Marie-Andree Jacob’s award winning work on legality and kinship in transplants (2009 SLSA Best Article Prize) is now followed by her work on research integrity in medical sciences, which has been funded by AHRC (2011) and Leverhulme (2015) Fellowships. Other recent funded projects include an ESRC Seminar Series grant  ‘Liability versus Innovation: Unpacking Key Connections’ 2015-2017 (Tsachi Keren-Paz Principal Investigator and Michael Fay a Co-Investigator) and Anthony Wrigley's (2015-16) Philosophy of Hope and Optimism Funding Initiative’s Non-Residential Fellowship on Hope and Death, supported by Notre Dame and Cornell Universities and the John Templeton Foundation.

Research within the HLB group has informed the parliamentary deliberation of the Medical Innovation Bill; led to the commission of two background papers by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, one on Scientific Research Integrity and another on Genome Editing; resulted in major international works, such as the European Textbook on Ethics in Research for the European Commission; and received national press coverage, such as Wrigley’s criticisms of the Neuberger Review’s recommendations to end the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying.

Sue Westwood conducts research on ageing and inequality in relation to housing, health and social care, and on how law operates and is operated in closed care contexts for older people. She is also interested in 'right to die' debates, and next-of-kin rights and responsibilities in regulatory contexts.

HLB researchers are involved with a number of medical professional organisations including, The Nuffield Foundation, The European Network of Research Integrity Offices, The General Medical Council, The European Society on Transplantation, the Committee on Publication Ethics and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) which has established international Standards of Care for the medical treatment of transgender people.

HLB events include the regular Royal Institute of Philosophy guest speakers’ series in Healthcare Ethics and Law. Recently, a successful multi-disciplinary seminar on 'Loss, bereavement and compassionate care in the criminal justice system' was organised by members of the cluster (Sotirios Santatzoglou and Anthony Wrigley) to explore collaborative research opportunities between academics, professionals and researchers working on end of life issues and criminal justice. The seminar brought together speakers from nursing, criminology, law, psychology, and public interest groups and was attended by academics, research students, professionals from the prison service and support groups from across the country.

As Part of the ESRC Seminar Series Grant ‘Liability versus Innovation’, Keele will host three seminars on

18th April 2016 (Does liability stifle innovation?: economic models and anecdotal findings),

4th May 2017 (Thinking outside the box Strict liability and offsetting risks) and

14th September 2017 (Research, Innovative treatments and Barriers for innovation including liability’).  

Additionally, ‘A Right to Die?’ – Socio-legal perspectives' Conference on 18 July 2017 explores cutting edge themes associated with assisted dying and euthanasia.

HLB provides an academic home for numerous graduate students, including both full-time and part-time doctoral research students working in areas of healthcare law and bioethics, and Master’s students (most of whom are healthcare professionals) in the Medical Ethics & Law and Medical Ethics & Palliative Care programmes.

Research students in this cluster are currently working on the following thesis topics:

  • The Ethics of ECT (Geoff Ellison);
  • Transgender People, Prisons and Human Rights (Robyn Emerton);
  • Accommodating religious requirements in the NHS (Sam Griffin);
  • Law reform and assisted dying (Rebecca Hill);
  • Social value as criterion for organ allocation (Joe Johnston);
  • Prenatal Testing and Reproductive Autonomy (Kathryn Leask);
  • Moral status and the human embryo (Wendy Suffield);
  • Ideology and Healthcare reforms within England (David Benbow);
  • Research governance in pharmacogenetic drug based development (June Williams);
  • Trust in Physicians (Markus Wolfensberger);
  • Ethics of harm reduction in addiction (Zainab Yate).

Recent research student successes include research degree awards on the following topics:

  • 'In search of a system which acquires the maximum number of organs and is consistent with a society’s values (Victoria Thornton);
  • ‘Medical schools and the virtuous physician: how to ensure that physicians will do the right thing’ (Thalia Arawi);
  • ‘Responsibilities of Western countries in relation to HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (Norman Gourlay);
  • ‘Moral Particularism: Implications in medical ethics’ (Alan Green);
  • 'Can we do better than the four principles? – a modest Consequentialist proposal’ (David Molyneaux);
  • ‘The good health care professional: a critique of Edmund Pellegrino’s approach to essentialist medical ethics and the virtues’ (Roger Newham);
  • 'Exploitation and clinical trials in developing countries' (Leena Al-Qasem).