Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre

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PEALS 18th Annual International Symposium 2017

Bioethicists as Advocates and Activists: Professional Boundaries and Commitments 19-20 September 2017

This year’s symposium considers an increasingly topical question: Is there a role for bioethicists in advocacy or activism in controversial areas of the life sciences? Some recent cases have seen bioethics severely criticised both for involvement and lack of involvement in social and political activism, in contentious areas such as organ trafficking, surgical ‘rectification’ of intersex, or the role of healthcare professionals in torture and interrogation. Individual bioethicists can find themselves torn between demands for academic objectivity (and there is debate over what exactly that means), and political or personal commitments. The symposium aims to address questions such as:

•             Can bioethical research be done at all without adopting defined ethical positions?

•             To what extent does activism/advocacy blur the boundaries between personal, political and professional viewpoints?

•             How should bioethics deal with perceptions of bias and/or conflicts of interest?

•             Do bioethicists have a duty to engage more actively with social issues and problems, and if so what are its limits?

•             What is the relationship between activism/advocacy and whistle-blowing?

•             Do attitudes to bioethical advocacy have implications for opinions on conscientious objection?

•             Are there risks for the academic who becomes an activist or advocate, for their institution, or for the field as a whole?

How can bioethicists and activists most effectively work together? 

We are delighted to be able to bring together colleagues and friends past and present to engage with these important questions.

We're tweeting at #PEALS2017

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