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Ethics education

Teaching, Application and Theory

30 Sep, 10 | by Iain Brassington

Ben Saunders’ paper in this month’s JME dealing with how to teach applied ethics is thought-provoking.  He picks up on an argument between Robin Lawlor and David Benatar that’s been rumbling on for yonks in the Journal‘s pages.  Lawlor and Benatar are worried about how much theory to teach in applied ethics classes – Lawlor wants the theory minimised (see here and here); Benatar (see here and here) isn’t so sure that he’d be quite so minimal.

Saunders is happy to go along with the idea that one of the dangers of introducing theory is that students – at least, those students who are not studying philosophy – will be left with only a caricature of the theory. more…

COBRA Conference on Teaching Professional Ethics

21 Sep, 10 | by Iain Brassington

Nathan Emmerich reviews the conference here.

He’s also asked me to add a reminder about the conference on Social Scientific Approaches to Bioethics to be held in London in January.  I posted the CFP here a little while ago, but the conference website is here.

Concord in Ethics and Bioethics

24 Mar, 10 | by Iain Brassington

Over at Pea Soup, Ralph Wedgwood makes an interesting claim:

I suspect that on several issues that are the focus of fierce moral controversies today – such as homosexuality and the death penalty – there is significantly less disagreement among contemporary philosophers than in the population as a whole. Indeed, I tentatively suggest, the historical record indicates that philosophers have been pushed towards the liberal view on these issues by some fundamental features of philosophy itself.

To what extent is this true?  more…

Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele PGT Open Day – Updated

23 Mar, 10 | by Iain Brassington

The Centre for Professional Ethics & the School of Law at Keele University would like to invite you to attend their postgraduate taught courses open day on the 31st of March – between 4:30 pm and 7:00 pm at the Claus Moser Research Centre, Keele University.

Update: Details of the event can be found here:

And an RSVP form can be found here:

Keele’s Centre for Professional Ethics (also known as PEAK – Professional Ethics at Keele) is amongst the largest and most successful providers of postgraduate ethics courses in Europe, with over 200 postgraduate students, eight permanent academic staff, and a portfolio of five distinctive MA / PgDip programmes as well as the UK’s first Professional Doctorate in Medical Ethics



1 Mar, 10 | by Iain Brassington

I got an email today from one of our current batch of students, who will – all being well – be collecting his MA in the next few months.*

The essence of the email is this: over the course of his time with us, he’s found that his interest in medical ethics and law has been sufficiently tickled that he’d like to keep his hand in.**  The problem is that he’ll lose access to the journals that he currently gets through the library. more…

Manchester MA/ Intercalated MSc in Health Care Ethics & Law – Open Preview Event

23 Feb, 10 | by David Hunter

University of Manchester

The Centre for Social Ethics and Policy at the University of Manchester has places available on its MA and Intercalated MSc in Health Care Ethics & Law programmes for the academic year 2010-11; further details can be found via the link at

There will be an open event on the 3rd March; prospective students are invited to come along from 1 o’clock to meet the team, and to attend and participate in our weekly Senior Seminar from 2 o’clock.

For further information about the MSc, or the event, contact the Programme Director, Iain Brassington, via; for information about the MA, contact Charles Erin, via

Teaching Ethics in Medical Schools

18 Dec, 09 | by Iain Brassington

My attention has wandered recently to this editorial in Clinical Medicine, concerning the place and content of ethics education in the undergraduate medical curriculum.  There’s nothing Earth-shattering in there, but the piece does draw out a few persistent problems with teaching ethics within the medical degree: more…

Dan Sulmasy’s Crystal Ball

4 Aug, 09 | by Iain Brassington

Dan Sulmasy has a piece on Bioethics Forum at the moment in which he considers the next 40 years of bioethics.  It’s a curious piece, making six main claims or predictions about the future, to which I’ll return in a minute: but before that, I think it’s worth looking at his scene-setting:

I suggest that bioethics has evolved through three phases: a religious phase in the 1950s and ’60s, a philosophical phase in the ’70s and ’80s, and a political-empirical phase from the ’90s to the present. Much as been written and said about the first two phases, but little about more recent history.

By the late 1980s, just as I was starting serious study in the field, philosophical bioethics had created a standard canon and had begun to rest on its achievements. Physicians, who found the language of philosophers alien but had been taking courses in bioethics, began re-engaging the field (or, in some cases, reclaiming it as their own). 

The general public, policymakers, and many of the new young students entering the field of bioethics by this time also began to complain that philosophy did not supply enough concrete answers to their pressing questions. They wanted solutions to social policy problems such as the distribution of health care resources, cost-containment, and physician-assisted suicide.

I’m interested to know whether this natural history of bioethics is accurate.  On the face of it, I’m not sure.  It – perhaps – describes the genesis of bioethics in the US, but I’m not sure that the subject has followed the same route in Europe, where there simply has not been a religious or political phase.  Bioethics has grown out of a renewed interest in applied ethics, which has grown out of good, old-fashioned, seminar-room ethics.  To the extent that claims are made about what should be done, and what the law should say, bioethics is “political” – but it isn’t political in the strong sense that I think Sulmasy uses the term; it isn’t about activism on behalf of this or that group (and it shouldn’t be, either).  And I’ve already articulated my suspicions of the supposed “empirical turn” in the subject; empirical studies may feed ethical debate, but they oughtn’t to be treated as a substitute.

But back to the six points, which I’ve edited down here.


What should UK medical students learn about ethics? Your chance to have your say

3 Jul, 09 | by Søren Holm

The Institute of Medical Ethics is currently revising the Core Curriculum in Medical Ethics and Law. This is arguably the only document laying out in any kind of detail what medical students in the UK should learn about ethics in medical school, and is therefore not unimportant!

A consultation on the revision in now open (until 31.07.09) and the draft Core Curriculum and consultation document can be found at:

So, provide your comments now to the IME or forever be silent (or at least be silent until the next revision).

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