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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Bioethics/Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

The Bioethics/Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group (BPMRG) is run by postgraduates in the Philosophy Department. Our group is open to all students and staff members, and there is no need to have studied the subject in detail. As long as you have an interest in our topics and want to share your opinions with us, you will be welcomed with open arms. Got any questions, comments or reading suggestions? Let us know.

The schedule for 2019/20 is still pending confirmation

Next Session

Details pending confirmation

If you are interested in participating, please email We have already made a short list with suggestions (below).

Past Readings are listed below;

1. Cassel, Jackie, ‘Against medical ethics: Opening the can of worms’, Journal of Medical Ethics, 1998, 24, pp. 8-12

2. Cawthorne, T., ‘Medicine in Art’ in Postgraduate Medical Journal, 1961 April, 37 (426), pp. 184–190

3. Charlesworth, M., ‘Ending Life’ in Bioethics in a Liberal Society, CUP, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 30-60

4. Chen, W., ‘The laboratory as business: Sir Almroth Wright’s vaccine programme and the construction of penicillin’ in Cunningham, A. and Williams, P. (Eds.), The laboratory revolution in medicine, CUP, Cambridge, 1992, pp. 245-292

5. Fissel, Mary E., ‘The Medical Marketplace, the Patient, and the Absence of Medical

Ethics in Early Modern Europe and North America’ in Baker, R. B. and McCullough, L. B. (Eds.), The Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics, pp. 531-539

6. Held, Virginia, ‘The Ethics of Care’, The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory, Oxford University Press, New York, 2006, pp. 537-567

7. Jewson, N. D., ‘The disappearance of the sick-man from medical cosmology’ in Brunton, D. (Ed.), Health, disease and society in Europe, 1800-1930: a sourcebook, MUP, Manchester, pp. 1-5

8. Rottschaefer, William A., ‘Understanding moral agency: What is a scientific naturalistic view of moral agency?’ in The biology and psychology of moral agency, CUP, Cambridge, 1998, pp. 9-28

9. Scott, P. A., ‘The relationship between the arts and medicine’ in Medical Humanities, 2000, 26, pp. 3-8 (available online at

10. Sporken, Paul and ten Have, Henk, ‘Heroin Addiction, Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec., 1985), pp. 173-177

Please contact Aleksandra Traykova for further information


Previous Discussions (below)


Cecilia Nardini's paper - 'The ethics of clinical trials'.


Cecilia Nardini's paper - The ethics of clinical trials


Are Stem Cells Entities? - Dr Cheryl Lancaster (Durham)


Fissell, M. E., ‘Hairy Women and Naked Truths: Gender and the Politics of Knowledge in Aristotle's Masterpiece, The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 1, January 2003, pp. 43-47


This week we read a paper by Steven Shapin titled 'Descartes the Doctor', which explores the Cartesian ideal about an improved and more effective medical practice as the result of philosophical knowledge.


Surrogacy and its implications for human dignity and personal relationships. 'Surrogacy and Dignity: Rights and Relationships'


We’ll be reading Elísabet Rakel Sigurðardóttir’s essay ‘Women and Madness in the Nineteenth Century’, which you can download from this message or find at
the following link:
We will meet in room PO111 (48/49 Old Elvet) 3-4pm


P. Gardiner's paper "A virtue ethics approach to moral dilemmas in medicine", which you can access at


Radical empathy as an interpretive framework derived from phenomenology, and the ways in which it could be used for making sense of a first-person reports of psychiatric illnesses, especially in the case of depression (Matthew Ratcliffe's paper 'Phenomenology as a Form of Empathy'.


We will be discussing whether and how individual experiences can be incorporated within broader medical understanding.
Further information can be accessed in the following - Dr. Tania L. Gergel’s paper ‘Medicine and the individual: is phenomenology the answer?


Angela Woods 'The limits of narrative: provocations for the medical humanities'


Explanatory theories of normal functioning, and whether they are required for the purposes of medical research


This week our reading group will focus on the ways in which mind-body dualism and reductionism enter policy debates on the early identification of [and intervention with] children at risk of maltreatment, and how neuroscience can help us resolve some of the resulting conceptual difficulties. Bring a copy of Eileen Munro and Kristina Musholt's work 'Neuroscience and the risks of maltreatment'


Chapter 14 from Gary Greenberg's book Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease


Havi Carel's book Illness - Chapter 2: The Social World of Illness


Chapter 1 of Havi Carel‘s book Illness


The phenomenology of shame and humiliation in medical encounters, as well as the broader cultural significance of illness and its stigmatization.


Draper and Sorell's article 'Patient's Responsibilities in Medical Ethics'.


Details pending confirmation


Details pending confirmation


Details pending confirmation


Details pending confirmation


Chloë Taylor’s paper ‘Female Sexual Dysfunction, Feminist Sexology, and the Psychiatry of the Normal'


Chloë Taylor’s paper ‘Female Sexual Dysfunction, Feminist Sexology, and the Psychiatry of the Normal’.


This week's topic is Pat Walsh's article 'Asperger syndrome and the supposed obligation not to bring disabled lives into the world'


We will look at Bosslet's article on provreative obligations and the categorization of disease


S. Kay Toombs's classic works on the meaning of illness and the essential characteristics of illness experiences as construed by patients.


This session was cancelled to avoid a clash with another event.


Lucy Bailey’s paper -‘First-Time Mothers and Embodied Selves’. To obtain a copy, please visit


Dr Ursula Mulcahy - 19th Century Cholera Outbreaks


Garbutt, G., and Davies, P., ‘Should the practice of medicine be a deontological or utilitarian enterprise?’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 37, No. 5 (May 2011), pp. 267 – 270


‘Whited Sepulchers’, a chapter from Nancy Tomes’s book The Gospel of Germs.


Jenny Morris's paper about the social model of disability as a tool for overcoming discrimination, promoting human rights and articulating ecperiences of impairment. The text is available here


Dierickx and Kirchhoffer's paper 'Human dignity and human tissue: a meaningful ethical relationship?', available as a pdf file


Shelley Tremain's article on the way maternal bodies are governed through a set of prescriptions for action implied by technologies for prenatal testing.
To obtain a copy of the article, please download the attached file, or access


'Empiricism, ethics and orhodox exonomic theory: what is the appropriate basis for decision-making in the health sector?' - a paper by Jeff Richardson and John McKie


'Anorexia Nervosa and the Body Uncanny' - a paper by Frederik Scenaeus which attempts to explain the anorexic person's relationship to her body through a phenomenological analysis


In this session we will be screening a documentary film about the ways in which putting children on psychiatric drugs could impact families. Come and join Louis Theroux as he travels to America’s leading psychiatric treatment centres in order to interview some of the youngest patients and their families. Where do we draw the line between “bad behaviour” and “psychiatric disorder”? Have drugs become an alternative to old-fashioned parenting? To learn more about “America’s Medicated Kids”, visit the film’s official webpage at


'What kind of work did Scottish surgeons fo in the 18th century?' Dr Ursula Mulcahy (Durham)


Singh, I., ‘Clinical Implications of Ethical Concepts: Moral Self-Understandings in Children Taking Methylphenidate for ADHD’, Clinical Children Psychology and Psychiatry, April 2007, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 167-182, available online at


Anna Kata's paper on the postmodern discourses which underpin vaccine objections.


Parker, L. S. and Arnold, R. M., ‘Confidentiality – Revealing Trends in Bioethics’, Bioethics Forum 14 (3/4), Fall/Winter 1998, pp. 32-42, available at


Corrigan, O., 'Empty ethics: the problem with informed consent', Sociology of Health and Illness, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2003, pp. 768-792,
available online at


'Intersex(es) and informed consent', a famous short publication by JD Hester explaining how the rhetoric of pathology can constrain patient autonomy and act as a social sanction against the ambiguosly gendered.


Sara Goering's paper 'The Ethics of Making the Body Beautiful'


This session was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances: Sarah Goering's paper 'The Ethics of Making the Body Beautiful' and pondering the questions of appearance norms, harmful conceptions of normalirt, and the moral responsibilities of cosmetic surgeons.


Patricia Churchland’s paper on human dignity from the perspective of neurophilosophy, part of a compilation of essays on human dignity and bioethics commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics in March 2008. The text can be found at
To read the full book online for free, click on the link below:


Patricia Churchland’s paper on human dignity from the perspective of neurophilosophy, part of a compilation of essays on human dignity and bioethics commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics in March 2008. The text can be found at


Neil Levy's article on constraining informed consent as the best strategy for promoting patient autonomy.


This session was unfortunately cancelled due to unforseen circumstances: Neil Levy, Forced to be free? Increasing patient autonomy by constraining it - Available here


Christine Korsgaard’s paper on the legal and moral problems that arise from categorizing all existing entities as either “persons” or “things”. For full details and an abstract, go to


Peter Allmark’s critique of care ethics and the concept of care


Cawthorne, T., 'Medicine in art' in Postgraduate Medical Journal, 1961 April, 37 (426), pp. 184-190


An article by Henk ten Have and Paul Sporken which discusses the philosophical and ethical aspects of heroin addiction.


Avshalom Caspi and Terrie E. Moffitt: “Gene–environment interactions in psychiatry: joining forces with neuroscience”


The mind-body problem as presented by Dr Kenneth Kendler, an American clinician, researcher and professor from Virginia Commonwealth University. We will be reading his ‘user-friendly introduction’ to the topic from the perspective of psychiatry, a paper called ‘A Psychiatric Dialogue on the Mind-Body Problem’.


Nicholas Jewson’s work ‘The disappearance of the sick-man from medical cosmology’ (full details and abstract are available below this message). The paper presents a short yet rather insightful sociological analysis of the shift from a person-oriented to an object-oriented medical thinking, and is available at and


Ch. 46 from The Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics. The chapter was written by John Hopkins University professor Mary Fissell and presents a very thought-provoking overview of the ‘medical marketplace’ model of health care provision in the early modern West.


Short article by Jackie Cassel which explores David Seedhouse’s characterization of ethics and his claim that medical ethics can have no special area of study.


‘Embryological Models in Ancient Philosophy’ in Phronesis, 2005, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 1-42.


Vladimir Vonka’s ‘Causality in Medicine: The Case of Tumours and Viruses’,Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 355, No. 1404 (Dec. 29, 2000), pp. 1831-1841


Williams, Neil E., ‘The Factory Model of Disease’,The Monist, Vol. 90, No. 4, Biomedical Ontologies (October 2007), pp. 555-584


'Can Illness Be Edifying?’ by Ian James Kidd

28/02/2013 Havi Carel’s ‘Can I be Ill and Happy?’
21/02/2013 Rachel Cooper’s paper ‘Disease’,