Ethics Health and social care

The Ethics, Health, and Social Care research cluster field draws on the School of Law’s longstanding tradition of excellence in moral philosophy, applied ethics, doctrinal, and socio-legal scholarship.

Our research strengths and impact

Research within the EHSC group has informed the parliamentary deliberation of the Medical Innovation Bill; been cited by the Australian Parliament in deliberation of new regulation governing the use of mitochondrial replacement technologies; 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.

EHSC researchers are involved with a number of professional organisations including, the Nuffield Foundation, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics,The European Network of Research Integrity Offices, The General Medical Council, The European Society on Transplantation, and the Committee on Publication Ethics.

Staff also regularly appear in national and international media to discuss their areas of research, including The Conversation, BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze, and BBC News.

The members of EHSC have a diverse range of research strengths, one of which being the interrogation of healthcare law from ethical, theoretical, and doctrinal perspectives.

Professor Anthony Wrigley is an ethicist with research interests in a wide range of issues, particularly those related to genetics and reproductive ethics, end of life ethics, and concepts in bioethics. His publications have included work on new genetic technologies, advance directives and proxy consent, moral authority, abortion, end of life care policy, personhood and harms to future generations, mental illness, the nature of vulnerability, and the concept of hope and dying in restricted environments. His most recent book, Trust in Medicine, explores the decline of trust in the medical profession and what might be done about it. He was holder of a major award and Fellowship at Notre Dame and Cornell Universities in the USA on the topic of hope in the face of inevitable death. Together with other colleagues at Keele he was also part of the funded project ‘Supporting Death, Dying and Bereavement in the English Criminal Justice System’.

Dr Jonathan Hughes is a philosophical bioethicist with interests in resource allocation, conscientious objection in healthcare and ethical issues related to autism. He has written on the difficulty of justifying allocation of resources to end-of-life palliative care on the basis of standard cost-effectiveness measures and is currently interested in researching the ethical issues raised by age-based rationing of healthcare resources.

Dr Kirsty Moreton’s research explores the legal regulation of decision-making for and by children in a medical context, with a particular focus on ethics of care. She has also researched and published on palliative care and the Liverpool Care Pathway, court - ordered caesarean sections, the interplay between ethics and law, and child decision-making in the context of abortion.

Members of EHSC also have a longstanding history of research into social care, mental health, and legal regulation. Professor Alison Brammer’s research interests lie in both adult and child social welfare law, adult safeguarding, and elder abuse, and she also leads the Social Work Law Association.  

Dr Laura Pritchard-Jone's research interests are predominantly around social welfare law, adult safeguarding, and mental capacity law and she has a particular interest in how the law applies to older adults, and adults living with dementia. Her current research interests lie in particular in the use of the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction to safeguard adults who have mental capacity but who are being abused or coerced. 

Dr Ezgi Taşcıoğlu is a socio-legal scholar, exploring the role of law in the production of marginalised sexualities and gender identities. Currently, this exploration develops in two main strands: the construction of transgender citizenship in everyday life in urban Turkey, and the regulation of intellectually disabled people’s intimate lives in England and Wales. Ezgi is particularly interested in the interactions of law with social and cognitive (in)justice. Her previous work has looked at everyday decision making and supported will-making by intellectually disabled people under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Dr Rachel Treloar’s research interests lie at the intersections of family law, social policy and lived experiences. Her recent research sought to understand how parents who at one time experienced a high-conflict separation process make meaning of and navigate the experience over time. Despite the difficulties parents then faced (and in some cases still do face), her research highlighted how individuals change, make sense of, and respond to their circumstances across the life course, thereby exercising agency. This personal process not only occurs over the individual life course and within the context of evolving personal and social relations, but it also occurs in a social, political, and legal context that also changes over time and across generations. Hence, her research also explored the social dimensions of this transformation.

In addition to this, Hannah Gibbons-Jone's research interests lie in caring and familial relationships (legally or socially constructed), including the forming and ending of marriage and civil partnerships by adults with learning disabilities, relationship support for elderly couples in residential care, and sibling and young carers.

Laura Pritchard-Jones, Mark Eccleston-Turner, and Alison Brammer have recently been awarded £106,824 by The Health Foundation to research the impact of COVID-19 on adult social acre and adult safeguarding, particularly the legal obligations incumbent on local authorities and Safeguarding Adults Boards.

Professor Alison Brammer was the Principal Investigator on the ESRC-funded seminar series ‘Safeguarding Adults: A New Legal Framework’, the aim of which was to explore the new legal rules around safeguarding adults at risk of abuse or neglect in the Care Act 2014.

Alison Brammer, and Laura Pritchard-Jones, together with Eva Luksaite in the School of Medicine and colleagues at VOICES of Stoke have also recently been awarded a 1+3 studentship by the Economic and Social Research Council, entitled ‘Assessing the impact of the VOICES Care Act Toolkit on needs assessments for people experiencing Multiple Exclusion Homelessness.’

Professor Anthony Wrigley was the Templeton Foundation award holder for the Philosophy of Hope and Optimism Funding Initiative for his project “Hope and Death: Despair and Absolute Hope in the Face of Inevitable Death”, which included a Fellowship at Notre Dame and Cornell Universities in the USA. He was also the Co-Investigator (with Sotirios Santatzoglou and Sue Read) for the Barrow-Cadbury Trust project “Integrating Loss and Bereavement Assessment”.

EHSC 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.

In 2017, Anthony Wrigley, Jonathan Hughes, and Kirsty Moreton organised a major event to mark a milestone of achievement for Keele and the School’s work in medical ethics and law: ‘30 Years of Medical Ethics and Law: looking back, moving forward’, funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy. This brought together a wide range of leading academics and practitioners from across the country to discuss the history, achievements, and future challenges to work in medical ethics and law.

In September 2018, Anthony Wrigley and Sotirios Santatzoglou organised a major multidisciplinary conference: ‘What is the role of Compassion in Decision-Making when working with Vulnerable and Marginalised people?’, funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and the Keele Institute for Social Inclusion. Speakers came together from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds to discuss the nature and importance of compassion and the needs of different vulnerable people, from prisoners to asylum seekers.

In June 2019, the School also hosted a one-day conference entitled ‘Dementia, Disability, and Human Rights’, jointly funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the Keele Institute for Social inclusion, and the School of Law. The conference welcomed over 100 delegates and a range of speakers including individuals living with dementia, together with academics and practitioners from law, health care, and palliative care.

In February 2017 Professor Wayne Martin from the University of Essex delivered a guest lecture on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its implication for domestic mental capacity legislation. The lecture was attended by staff, students, and members of the public alike. A video of the event can be found here.

EHSC provides an academic home for numerous graduate students, including both full-time and part-time doctoral research students working in areas of healthcare law, bioethics, and social care. Research students in this cluster are currently working on the following thesis topics:

  • Assessing the impact of the VOICES Care Act Toolkit on needs assessments for people experiencing Multiple Exclusion Homelessness (Helena Kitto)
  • Law reform and assisted dying (Rebecca Hill)
  • Ideology and Healthcare reforms within England (David Benbow)
  • Sibling Children and Adoption (Sally Dowding)
  • Pandemics (Abbie Hampton)
  • “Exploring Nurses’ Thoughts About Best Interests Decisions for People with Advanced Dementia: a Qualitative, Exploratory Study” (Jayne Murphy)
  • Previous student successes include research degree awards on the following topics:
  • ‘What moral status, if any, ought to be ascribed to the human embryo and pre-sentient fetus?’ (Wendy Suffield)
  • ‘Accommodating religious requirements in NHS Healthcare’ (Sam Griffin)
  • A conceptual analysis of trust in medicine: its definition, decline, and significance’ (Markus Wolfensberger)
  • What should be the role of social value in organ allocation decisions?’ (Joe Johnston)
  • ‘PGD and Disability’ (Kathryn Leask)
  • '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)
  • ‘Research governance in pharmacogenetic-based drug development: why the Principlist approach?’ (June Williams)
  • ‘The Ethics of ECT’ (Geoff Ellison)
  • ‘The ethical demand on the developed world of 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)

Capacity, Incapacity and Human Rights: A CRPD Perspective

Professor Wayne Martin from the Essex Autonomy Project at the University of Essex talks about the implications of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities