Seminar: Debating Forced Medical Feeding: a Critical Examination of Israeli Responses to Hunger Strikes

16 January 2020

Thursday, 20 February 2020, 5.30 – 7.00 pm.

Lecture Theatre, St Cross College, St Giles’, Oxford.

Abstract: In this talk, I will critically examine Israeli institutional responses to hunger strikes (mainly by Palestinian prisoners). A crucial part of the background is the unique clause 15 of Israel’s Patient’s Rights Act of 1996, which allows forced, life-saving treatment in the expectation of retroactive consent. Recently, however, the government initiated legislation aimed to mandate forced feeding for reasons that include not only concern for the hunger striker’s life, but also concern for state security. The National Bioethics Council unanimously opposed this expansion of grounds for forced treatment, though a minority within the Council endorsed placing hunger strikers in a separate category from other patients. I will discuss the ethical and political values expressed in this debate, as well as the contestable notion of retroactive consent.

Speaker: Professor Noam Zohar (Bar Ilan University) Noam Zohar is Professor of Philosophy in Bar Ilan University, and Director of its Graduate Program in Bioethics; and a member of Israel’s National Bioethics Council. He has received visiting fellowships at Harvard University and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His research and teaching are in the fields of Moral and Political Philosophy, with an emphasis on Applied Ethics – particularly bioethics and the ethics of warfare; as well as the fields of Rabbinics and Philosophy of Halakhah. His publications include numerous essays and several books in the above fields, and (with Michael Walzer, and Menachem Lorberbaum) is editor of  the seriesThe Jewish Political Tradition (Yale University Press: Volume 1: Authority [2000]; Volume 2: Membership [2003]; Volume 3: Community[2018] and Volume 4: Politics in History, [forthcoming]).

The New St Cross Special Ethics Seminars are jointly organised by the Oxford Uehiro Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and are open to members of the public (booking required).




16 January 2020

21 February 2020, 17:30-19:00.

Philosophy & Medicine Colloquia at King’s

Speaker: Marius Backmann, London School of Economics

Bush House (S) 2.02, Strand Campus

If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link.

Some necessitarians have claimed that they could justify induction by
introducing necessary connections. By analysing the reasoning in randomised
clinical trials (RCTs), I argue that this view does not accurately represent
scientific practice.

The basic model of necessitarian solutions to the problem of induction is as
follows: First we infer from the fact that all Fs have so far been Gs via an
inference to the best explanation (IBE) that there is a necessary connection
between F-ness and G-ness. We then deductively infer from this necessary
connection that all Fs are Gs.

Nancy Cartwright and Eileen Munro offer an idealised reconstruction of
randomized clinical trials broadly along these lines. First, we infer from
evidence that a treatment has a ‘stable capacity’, i.e. a modal dispositional
property, to produce an outcome. Second, we deductively infer the efficacy of
the treatment outside the test environment from the existence of this stable
capacity. Cartwright and Munro argue that RCTs alone are no basis to support
these sorts of inferences, and hence do not deserve the status of a gold standard
for medical research.

Against this, I argue we should not try to give a deductive reconstruction of
RCTs. We ampliatively infer the causal relevance of the treatment in the sample
from the fact that the desired outcome is more prevalent in the test group than
in the control group. The further inference that the treatment will be causally
relevant in the population will also always be ampliative, because we cannot
possibly have the necessary information to make it deductive.
Moreover, the necessitarian analysis of inductive practice is inapplicable
where there are no modal properties that could be inferred to, as is, e.g., the case
in meta-studies.

Seminar: Offers, requests and certainties (in the prevention and treatment of cancer, for example)

11 November 2019

28th November 2019, 17:00 – 18:30.

Room TBA, Strand Campus, King’s College London.

Further information on the Philosophy & Medicine website.

Speaker: Stephen John, University of Cambridge.

Abstract: Doctors are sometimes permitted to give patients early detection tests which are not judged safe and effective enough to be used in screening programmes. Pharmaceutical companies are sometimes permitted to give patients drugs which are not yet approved by regulators. On the face of it, these cases seem examples of a more general phenomenon explored in recent philosophy of science under the heading of “inductive risk”, where appropriate standards of certainty are fixed by non-epistemic aspects of our situation. However, standard discussions of inductive risk focus on the consequences of different epistemic errors. This doesn’t look like a helpful way of thinking through our cases. This paper suggests an alternative: that there is a difference between the ethics of responding to requests and the ethics of making an offer. In the former case, considerations of autonomy are key; in the latter, considerations of non-maleficence. In turn, these deontic differences have important epistemic implications. This paper develops these ideas, noting their relevance to a range of practices around the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.

For those holding a valid KCL ID card, there is no need to register.

If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link.


Seminar: Medicalization of female sexual desire

11 November 2019

14th November 2019, 17:00 – 18:30.

Large Committee Room, Hodgkin Building, Guy’s Campus, King’s College London.

Organised by: Philosophy & Medicine at King’s College London.

Speaker: Jacob Stegenga, University of Cambridge

Abstract: Medicalisation is a social phenomenon in which conditions that were once under legal, religious, personal or other jurisdictions are brought into the domain of medical authority. Low sexual desire in females has been medicalised, pathologised as a disease, and intervened upon with a range of pharmaceuticals. There are two polarised positions on the medicalisation of low female sexual desire: I call these the mainstream view and the critical view. I assess the central arguments for both positions. Dividing the two positions are opposing models of the aetiology of low female sexual desire. I conclude by suggesting that the balance of arguments supports a modest defence of the critical view regarding the medicalisation of low female sexual desire.

For those holding a valid KCL ID card, there is no need to register.

If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link.




Workshop: Genome Editing and Animal Welfare

8 November 2019

November 19th, 2019.

Wolfson College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

The Oxford Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics, in conjunction with Wolfson College and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, is organizing a one day workshop on the topic of Genome Editing and Animal Welfare.  Speakers and topics will include:

  • Bernice Bovenkerk: “Animal (dis)enhancement: lessons from the human enhancement debate”
  • Sarah Chan: “Genome editing and the value of species”
  • Clare Palmer: “Using gene drive to eliminate invasive rodents on islands – ethics and the lives of animals”
  • Peter Sandoe: “Gene editing of cattle for hornlessness  – Ethical pros and cons”
  • Tatjana Visak: “A utilitarian account of animal rights”

Background: Recently developed genome editing technologies (in particular the CRISPR/Cas9 system) allow scientists to redesign animals in novel ways and on a scale that was previously not possible. For example, in agriculture, genome editing could potentially be used to increase meat or milk yield per animal, confer disease-resistance (e.g. pigs resistant to African swine fever), or to better adapt livestock to harsh environmental conditions (e.g. featherless chickens for hot climates) or to the conditions of industrial farming (e.g. hornless cattle, or cattle that feel less pain). In the context of biomedicine, genome editing in animals could be used to produce better models for the study of human disease, and animals that serve as ‘biological factories’, producing vaccines, pharmaceuticals or even entire organs.

This workshop will explore a number of philosophical questions raised by these developments, such as:

  • How should we weigh animal wellbeing against other considerations, e.g. respect for animals?
  • How will genome editing affect the moral status of animals and what are the implications?
  • Are there morally relevant differences between increasing animal wellbeing through environmental, bodily or mental influences?
  • Would pursuing genome editing in livestock make those who use it, or support its use,  complicit in a morally problematic livestock industry? If so, could this complicity be reduced or offset?

The event is organized by Katrien Devolder and Adam Shriver, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, and Wolfson College, and funded by a grant from the Society for Applied Philosophy.

Further details here.

Seminar: Blockchain, consent and prosent for medical research

5 November 2019

Thursday, 07 November 2019, 5.30pm to 7pm.

Lecture Theatre, St Cross College, 61 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ.

New St Cross Special Ethics Seminar, jointly arranged by the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities.

Speaker: Dr Sebastian Porsdam Mann (Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics; University of Copenhagen)

Respecting patients and their autonomy, a primary obligation of medical professionals, is increasingly important in the digital age. Yet biomedical and bioethical researchers have raised concerns over the barriers of access to previously stored medical data useful for epidemiological and other data-driven medical research. These barriers were introduced to protect the privacy and autonomy of patients but have had the unintended consequence of widespread and often severe selection bias, undermining research quality.

This talk introduces novel advances in computer science and cryptography, notably blockchain, as a proposed solution to the dilemmas raised by consent requirements to retroactive epidemiological research. It describes how these technologies can be used to reduce or eliminate data breach risks as well as radically enhance control over medical data for those who possess it.

Ethics and the law of most nations allow for consent waivers for research with minimal risk. If implemented properly, blockchain- and smart-contract based tools could reduce the privacy risk of most, if not all, records-based research to minimal, thus potentially freeing up the legislative space for a large-scale facilitation of records-based research. Importantly, the technology described in this talk could also be used to radically enhance the control that individuals and other data owners have over their pseudonymous medical data. These insights are critical to the increasingly important policy issues concerning access to, and control over, biomedical data.

These affordances of novel technologies should be widely discussed in the medical and policy professions to ensure that they are used for the furtherance of ethical principles. This talk aims to open preliminary discussion on these topics.

Further details and registration here.


Opportunity: New members sought for Nuffield Council on Bioethics

5 November 2019

Application deadline Monday 6 January 2020.

We are looking to recruit a number of new Council members to be a part of the deliberative body that drives the intellectual function of the organisation. The main responsibilities of the role are to decide on the future work programme and strategic direction of the Council, scrutinise and ensure the quality of reports and other outputs, and make decisions on the membership and function of the organisation. There are also opportunities to become involved in projects such as working groups, workshops and the production of publications such as briefing materials.

We encourage and welcome applications from a broad range of individuals and from all stages in their careers. We would particularly welcome applicants with experience in the following areas:

  • Basic and / or clinical science
  • Philosophy
  • Industry / private sector

Applicants don’t need to be directly involved in the field of bioethics, but they should be able to demonstrate an interest and appreciation of the issues. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion – we welcome and encourage applications from everyone.

Further details and application process here.