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.

Fully-funded PhD: Better Understanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy

25 July 2019

Department of Philosophy, University of Southampton.

Deadline for applications: Tuesday 13th Aug 2019 

We invite  applications for one fully-funded*, three-year PhD position in Philosophy, in the context of Elselijn Kingma’s ERC Project “Better Understanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy” (BUMP). The primary research areas of the project are metaphysics, philosophy of the life sciences, and certain areas of ethics, but students are welcome to propose any project, in any area, that falls within the remit of the project, broadly construed. The successful candidate will join a lively and collegiate research group, presently comprising two PhD students and four Postdocs, in addition to Dr Kingma.
The PhD will be registered at Southampton under the primary supervision of Elselijn Kingma; a second supervisor will be chosen from the Southampton philosophy staff. Southampton is an active and large research department with a flourishing postgraduate community and particular expertise in the philosophy of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. The ‘BUMP’ research group, of which the PhD-candidate will be a member, provides a happy, productive and welcoming research environment.  The group meets every week during term for a reading group and work in progress session.
The PhD is tenable for a maximum of three years. It is envisaged that the student will commence 1st October 2019, at an annual maintenance stipend of £15,009.  Fees, at the UK/EU rate, will also be covered. The candidate will also have access to generous additional funding for conference travel and other research activities – e.g. workshop organization – on an as needed basis and within the remit of the project, subject to approval by Dr Kingma.

The PhD candidate will be expected to

*   carry out their own independent PhD-sized research project within the remit of the grant and under the supervision of Kingma. (See below for examples and a project description.)
*   publish at least two academic papers.
*   be a proactive and collegial member of the BUMP research group and actively participate in all its activities;
*   undertake some minor administrative tasks – e.g. helping out at workshops.

For further details or questions, please contact: Elselijn Kingma

Eligibility: this scholarship is open to UK and EU nationals. Overseas candidates may also apply, but will have to find other funds to pay the differential between home and overseas fees, and provide evidence of their ability to do so.

Entry requirements: The minimum of a good 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a Masters in a relevant discipline.

Application: Please email Tracey Storey  by Tuesday 13th Aug 2019 with:

*   a max. 1000 word research proposal outlining your proposed research project and demonstrating its fit with the overall BUMP project.
*   a max 400 word personal statement indicating why and how you plan to contribute to the overall research project/group.
*   a writing sample (no more than 10.000 words).
*   a CV, including publications (if any).
*   the details of two academic references. Please also arrange that your referees send their confidential references directly, by email, from their professional address, to the address above by the deadline.

Shortlisted applicants may be invited for a SKYPE interview, provisionally scheduled for Friday 23rd of August.

Project Description: A project description and short and long versions of the project proposal are available on the BUMP project page. The long version of the proposal includes two examples of PhD projects (p10). Candidates may use these as the basis for their research proposal, but should not feel constrained by them. Any proposal within the remit of the project, broadly construed, will receive full and equal consideration.
*subject to ERC and Faculty final approval

Job: Research Associate in negligence, Cambridge

31 May 2019

An excellent opportunity has arisen to work at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, on a two year collaborative research project involving the Faculty’s Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Science and THIS Institute.


Specifically, applications are invited for a Research Associate or Senior Research Associate to conduct research on the law of negligence and communicating differential diagnosis to patients.

The project will investigate and critically evaluate the scope of a physician’s legal duties to record and communicate the uncertainty that is inherent in the process of developing a patient’s ‘differential diagnosis’. The aim of the project is not only to clarify how the law shapes the development and communication of differential diagnoses, but also assess whether and how the law in this area should be reformed.

The position requires a degree in law, with expertise in tort law. In addition, it requires a doctoral degree or equivalent work experience.

The funds for this post are available for two years from the start date.