New doctoral short course: “Narrative Bioethics” (26th – 29th May 2015)

The KISS DTC, UCL Economic & Social Research Council DTC and the AHRC London Arts and Humanities Partnership have awarded funding to seven doctoral training activities situated at the interface of Social Science and the Arts and Humanities.

We are delighted to announce that one of the funded project is a short course on Narrative Bioethics, organized by Dr Silvia Camporesi (Department of Social Science,  Health & Medicine, KCL) and Dr Maria Vaccarella (Centre for the Humanities and Health, and Department of Comparative Literature, KCL).

This short course is open to students across King’s College London, School of Advanced Study (University of London) and University College London. Sessions will take place from May 26th to May 29th, 2015, 2 to 5 pm, room 3.1.1 East Wing, Strand Campus.


By definition, Bioethics is an interdisciplinary enterprise across the social sciences and the humanities. Narrative approaches to bioethics further emphasize this cross-field collaboration, as they employ narratological concepts to unpack the moral implications of stories in and beyond clinical settings. In addition, the universal quality of health and body related issues positions medicine (in its broadest sense) as the perfect ‘bridge’ for an interdisciplinary training across the Social Sciences, and the Arts & Humanities.

Quinn Dombrowski, "Good Narrative" (cc by-sa 2.0)

Quinn Dombrowski, “Good Narrative” (cc by-sa 2.0)

In this short course, we will adopt a ‘Case Stories’ approach to training, which is meant to expand the more traditional “case studies” approach, by taking into account the narrative qualities of cases. We will analyse and discuss bioethical issues and controversies, as they are represented in a variety of media: from literature to films, from literary journalism to graphic novels. While engaging in this shared formative arena and possibly discovering intriguing new ramifications of their research, our doctoral students will also work towards more discipline-specific training objectives. PhD students in Social Sciences will learn how to implement a bottom-up approach to Bioethics, grounded in a fine-grained description of cases, as opposed to top-down normative frameworks such as principlism. PhD students in the Arts and Humanities will learn how to tease out the ethical (alongside the aesthetical and political) implications of the cultural products and phenomena they are researching.


Each session would be structured around a mini-lecture in which we explore key narratological and bioethical concepts, analysis and discussion of one or more case story(/ies).

1) Introduction to Narrative Bioethics: Introduction to the field. What is a bioethics case? How do we acquire narrative competence?

2) Disability and Embodiment: Disability as a narrative, epistemic and ethical resource (Garland- Thompson). Embodiment in narrative and ethics. Case stories of counter-eugenic issues (e.g. prospective parents resorting to preimplantation genetic diagnosis to choose to have deaf children like themselves).

3) Unreliability and Cognition: Delusional patients and the reliability of first-person narrations. The construction of narrative empathy. Case stories of psychosis, dementia and cognitive impairment.

4) Agency and Alienation: Narrative construction of self, identity and agency, and their bioethical implications. Case stories of surgery, advance directives, and developmental disorders.

How to apply:

If you are interested in attending this course, please write to Dr Silvia Camporesi ( outlining your motivation for attending and your research interests. Numbers will be capped at 15 to facilitate small group discussion/interaction. Deadline: May 1st, 2015, 17:00  

New book out: From Bench to Bedside, to Track & Field: The Context of Enhancement and its Ethical Relevance

Paperback | 978-0-9889865-4-1 | October 2014 | pp 185 | $24.95

From the back cover:

What is it to talk about gene transfer, gene therapy, and gene doping? Is choosing deafness with preimplantation genetic diagnosis an ethical way to carry on a cultural bloodline? What are the ethical and social implications of genetic testing to identify precocious talents? Should sponsors be held responsible for the doping behaviours of their athletes?camporesi_cover_6x9-202x300 These are only some of the questions that Dr. Silvia Camporesi addresses in this book, through a contextual, bottom up approach based on real-world ethical dilemmas. This book represents a unique contribution to the debate on enhancement technologies as it spans from the bench of molecular biology where the technologies are being developed, to the bedside of a clinical trial where they are used for selective reproduction or for first-in-human gene therapy studies, to the track & field where they are being applied to enhance human athletic performance. These investigations address current debates regarding the resurgence of eugenics in relation to genetic technologies, and provide a clear and much needed ethical autopsy of contemporary genetic practices.

The book is forthcoming for the ‘UC Perspectives in Medical Humanities Book Series‘, with a foreword by Professor Søren Holm. The series publishes scholarship produced or reviewed under the auspices of the University of California Medical Humanities Consortium, a multi-campus collaborative of faculty, students and trainees in the humanities, medicine, and health sciences.The editor of the series is Professor Brian Dolan.

From the acknowledgments:

This book builds to a large extent on my PhD dissertation in Philosophy of Medicine for King’s College London. […] From 2010 to 2013 I had the privilege of working in the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of the Wellcome Trust-funded Centre for the Humanities & Health at King’s College London. I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr Matteo Mameli, Reader in Philosophy at King’s College London, for supporting and mentoring me, and allowing me a wide degree of freedom in pursuing my research interests during my PhD. I have very fond memories of engaging discussions on medical humanities and philosophy of medicine (among other topics!) with my colleagues at the Centre for the Humanities & Health over the past three years. In particular, thanks to Elisabetta Babini, Natalie Banner, Monika Class, Bonnie Evans, Keren Hammerschlag, Elselijn Kingma, MM McCabe, David Papineau, Anne Marie Rafferty, Maria Vaccarella, and Stefan Wagner. A big thanks goes to Professor Brian Hurwitz, Director of the Centre, for his great support in helping me launch my career.
I now have the pleasure of working as a Lecturer in Bioethics & Society the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine at King’s College London, and I thank Professor Nikolas Rose, Head of Department, and all my new colleagues at SSHM for welcoming me and fostering such a vibrant work environment.

New publication: Elselijn Kingma & Natalie Banner “Liberating Practice from Philosophy”

Former post-doctoral fellows at the Centre for the Humanities and Health, Dr Elselijn Kingma and Dr Natalie Banner have recently re-considered the philosophical core of values-based medical practice in their chapter “Liberating practice from philosophy: a critical examination of values-based practice and its underpinnings,” in Dr Michael Loughlin (ed. by), Debates in Values-Based Practice. Arguments For and Against, Cambridge University Press (Oct. 2014).

As they explain in the introduction to their investigation,

Values Based Practice (VBP) has been developed and promoted by Bill Fulford over the past 20 years. In this chapter we investigate the relationship between the practical, skill-based aspects of VBP and its supposed philosophical basis. Firstly, we argue that the practical, skills-based and educational aspects of VBP do not require the philosophical underpinnings and commitments that Fulford packages them with. Instead, most of the practical aspects of VBP are compatible with a wide range of positions on philosophical methodology and a wide range of substantive philosophical claims. Secondly we argue – drawing upon a range of published objections, adding some of our own – that there are severe problems with the philosophical claims Fulford commits to. Thirdly, we point out that these philosophical commitments do not in fact derive from OLP at all, which plays a much smaller role in VBP than Fulford claims. We conclude that most of the practical, skills-based and educational aspects of VBP – which seem, as far as we can judge, laudable – can be retained, but that their association with a supposed philosophical basis is disingenuous, misleading, and should be dropped.

Debates in Values-Based Practice is structured as a dialogic volume, so this and other chapters complement Prof. Bill Fulford‘s own account of values-based practice. The collection, which also includes his responses to the contributors’ commentaries, looks like a very rich, thought-provoking text for anyone interested in healthcare provision.