HEAL UoS

Innovating at the Frontiers: The Postgraduate Bioethics Conference 2014

In Bioethics, Meetings on September 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Last week Alexander Chrysanthou and I hosted the 8th Postgraduate Bioethics Conference 2014. The theme of the Conference was ‘Health Law and Bioethics at the Frontiers of Innovation’. We were thrilled to organise the conference this year after a very successful seven years of Postgraduate Bioethics Conferences. We can report that the PGR bioethics community is alive and vibrant! This year’s Conference was attended by a range of academics from different disciplines, including philosophy, law, sociology, humanities, medicine and biomedical science, at different stages of their career from masters and doctoral students, members of the medical profession and renowned bioethics professors. We were very honoured that international delegates travelled from countries including Belgium, Ireland the Netherlands and the US to attend the event.

The first day of the Conference began with a keynote from Professor Bobbie Farsides who gave a fascinating account of her career and engaged with the importance of ‘frontiers’ in bioethical research and gave advice and tips on working with people in bioethics. One of the most important things being how to make someone’s day by bringing cake!

Bobbie then chaired the first parallel session of PGR papers in which I presented my paper ‘Testing the health of adolescent’s rights in healthcare’ followed by Anna Sierawska from the University of Aberdeen who spoke about ‘Prenatal diagnosis: do prospective parents have the right to know?’ Meanwhile, Professor Anneke Lucassen chaired a fantastic session, which included papers from Chris Blunt (LSE) ‘Personalised medicine and the ethics of stratified treatment: genomics, xalkori and distributive justice’ and Katherine Burke (Cardiff University) ‘Informed consent in the clinical genomics era: practical, ethical and sociological perspectives’.

One of the afternoon sessions of PGR papers was chaired Dr Remigius Nwabueze and included papers from Caroline Harnacke (Utrecht University) ‘The relation between disability models and social policy claims’ and Sam Walker (University of Manchester) ‘Body modification and contractarian harm’. The parallel session was chaired by Professor Jonathan Montgomery. Alexander Chrysanthou (University of Southampton and co-organiser of the Conference) delivered a paper entitled ‘Frozen embryo disputes: perception, technology and evolution’, which considered the possibility of a maternal-fetal attachment existing in IVF. Rachel Warren (University of Manchester) discussed ‘What is moral parenthood?’ and engaged in an excellent discussion of virtue ethics to aid her analysis of what it means to be a good parent. All papers were followed by superb academic discussion and fully engaged the audience.

Up next was a fantastic workshop with Professor Jonathan Montgomery ‘Bioethics in Practice’, which gave the PGRs inspiration and ideas about the importance of bioethical research and how to make an impact with research. The workshop involved group discussion and feedback and encouraged delegates to discuss and debate ideas about spreading research beyond the academic environment, such as using social media to disseminate research, blogging, newspapers articles, getting involved in an ethics committee, responding to public consultation documents and accepting television invites (including an entertaining story from Jonathan and fellow keynote speaker Professor John Harris about their appearance on Newsnight earlier in the week).

The next keynote speech was given by Professor John Harris and David Lawrence entitled “Hot baths and cold minds: neuroscience, mind-reading and mind misreading” and was presented from a make-shift lectern created out of furniture from the conference room. As well as thought-provoking questions about mind-reading and information on the internet, the talk featured lots of poetry and discussions about how many email accounts to have with one PGR admitting to having 5 twitter accounts and 6 phone numbers.

Following an excellent presentation from Dr Elselijn Kingma on “Taking pregnancy seriously: ethics in birth”, we all headed to the Conference dinner to continue ideas and discussion from the day (accompanied by a few glasses of wine …).

Day 2 of the conference began with an excellent variety of PGR papers from Lisa Diependaele (Ghent University) ‘Intellectual property rights: data exclusivity’, John Rumbold (Keele University) ‘Research exceptionalism, paternalism, and the Saatchi Bill’ and Abin Thomas (KCL) ‘Suffering and managing the individual self: the politics of death and religion in Kerala, India’, all chaired by Dr Sara Fovargue. In the other room Professor Ruth Chadwick chaired papers by Daniel Tigard (Tulane University) ‘Emergency preservation and resuscitation trials: a philosophical justification for involuntary enrolment’, Laura Downey (University of Edinburgh)‘ Identifying identity in Law and Bioethics’ and Jean Menard (UCL) ‘Normativity in the wards: legal pluralism as a conceptual framework for clinical ethics’.

Next was the second training workshop of the Conference, “Publishing in Bioethics”, a panel session made up of journal editors Professor Ruth Chadwick, Dr Sara Fovargue, Professor David Hughes and chaired by Professor John Coggon. Each spoke in turn and gave fantastic advice about how to get published in bioethics and the etiquette and procedures involved followed by a Q and A discussion with the PGRs.

Professor John Bryant chaired the next session of PGR papers on the theme of surrogacy, with papers by Gulzaar Barn (University of Oxford) ‘Commercial Surrogacy: a coercive offer’, Tung LeXuan (University of Southampton) ‘Surrogacy considerations in Vietnam’ and Aikaterini Neofytou (University of Kent) ‘‘’How I met my mothers’- Surrogate motherhood and the law: a comparative socio-legal analysis of the responses to surrogacy in Greece and the UK’. Dr David Gurnham chaired papers by Katherine Furman (LSE) ‘Is Thabo Mbeki morally responsible for his AIDS denialism?’, David Gibson (University of Manchester) ‘Assessment of mental capacity as negotiation of narrative identity’ and Caroline Somers (University College Cork) ‘Manufacturing certainty: best interests and end-of-life decision making’.

We were honoured to have Paul Woodgate from the Wellcome Trust attend the Conference and give a talk about funding at the Wellcome Trust, which got everyone thinking about postdocs and obtaining funding for future research projects.

The final session of the day was a keynote speech from Professor John Bryant, “Innovation and Ethics at the start of life”, which involved group discussion about different well-known historical ethical dilemmas including the first IVF baby Louise Brown, Dolly the sheep and more recent technological develop of three-parent embryos. John gave a brilliant presentation assisted by PowerPoint, in which he impressed us with not only his bioethical expertise but also his excellent photography skills.

We are very grateful for the generous financial support of the Wellcome Trust, the Society of Applied Philosophy, the Analysis Trust and the Southampton Ethics Centre. We are also grateful to the members of HEAL, Southampton Law School and Director of Postgraduate Research, John Coggon, for their academic support.

For further information about the Postgraduate Bioethics Conference, see the Conference website: http://www.postgradbioethics.com. We hope to update this in the near future with some pictures from the Conference.
Follow us on twitter @PGBC2014: https://twitter.com/PGBC2014
Join our Linkedin group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Postgraduate-Bioethics-Conference-8135542

If you have any ideas for next year’s conference or are interested in participating either as a speaker or an organiser please email postgrad.bioethics@outlook.com.

Emma Nottingham

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