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  

Bioethics seminar and book launch: Prof Søren Holm and Dr Silvia Camporesi (19/01/15)

We are delighted to invite you all to a seminar by Professor Søren Holm on The seven deadly sins of bioethics – how bioethical argument can go disastrously wrong​, followed by the launch of Dr Silvia Camporesi‘s new book, From Bench to Bedside, to Track & Field: the Context of Enhancement and its Ethical Relevance​, recently published for the UC Medical Humanities Series, with a foreword by Professor Holm.

camporesi_cover_6x9-202x300When: Monday January 19th, 2pm to 4.30pm
Where: Room SW1.17, East Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS
RSVP here

Søren Holm is a prominent bioethicist and philosopher of medicine. He is Professor of Bioethics at the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, part of the School of Law at the University of Manchester and at the Centre for Medical Ethics at the University of Oslo.

Abstract: The seven deadly sins of bioethics – how bioethical argument can go disastrously wrong
Søren Holm has entered grumpy middle age and in this talk he will use his long experience as an academic bioethicist and journal editor to Silvia Book Launch 1identify some of the way in which bioethical argument can go disastrously wrong. He will identify the seven deadly sins of bioethics, but will only discuss five of them in detail, partly because some of the deadly sins do not really require any in depth discussion. The bioethical equivalent of the canonical sin of ‘sloth’, i.e. lazy referencing is, for instance hardly worth any discussion, despite being extremely prevalent. The sins that will be identified, analysed and discussed are ‘simplification and reduction’, ‘unlifted bracketing’, ‘it ain’t necessarily so arguments’, ‘the irresistible attraction of the hole in one argument’, and ‘the grand leap of the whale up the Niagara falls’. In Silvia Book Launch 3so far as it is possible, the seminar will use examples drawn from the literature on human enhancement.

Professor Brian Hurwitz will be chairing the seminar, which will be followed by the presentation of Dr Camporesi’s book on the ethics of genetic technologies.

Tea and coffe, cookies and wines will follow.

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.