Professor Jackie Leach Scully
Professor of Social Ethics & Bioethics

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7502
  • Address: PEALS (Policy, Ethics & Life Sciences) Research Centre
    Newcastle University
    4th Floor Claremont Bridge
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU
    United Kingdom


First degree biochemistry, PhD in cellular pathology, followed by research in oncology and neurobiology at research institutes in Switzerland. In 1997 moved to help establish an interdisciplinary unit for bioethics at the University of Basel. Followed research interests in the regulation of genetic and reproductive medicine, and in more general areas of bioethics, disability, the social construction of moral issues, and in feminist and psychoanalytic approaches to understanding moral processes. Between 2002 and 2004 based at Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Institute at Newcastle, investigating ethical issues in prenatal sex selection. In 2006 returned to Newcastle to join Sociology, and in 2008 joined PEALS as Director of Research.

Roles and Responsibilities

Co-Director, PEALS


BA in Biochemistry, University of Oxford, 1985
PhD in Cellular Pathology, University of Cambridge, 1989
MA in Psychoanalytic Theory, Sheffield University, 2008

Previous Positions

Postdoctoral research fellow, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Epalinges
Postdoctoral research fellow, Institute of Physiology, University of Basel
Tutor in Biology, with responsibility for European students, Open University
Lecturer, Institute for Applied Ethics and Centre for Gender Studies, University of Basel
Senior research associate, Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences, University of Basel, Switzerland
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Newcastle University


International Association for Bioethics
Feminist Approaches to Bioethics Network (Co-coordinator 2008-)
Swiss Society for Biomedical Ethics (Board Member)
Association for Feminist Ethics and Social Theory
British Sociological Association
American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities



English, German

Research Interests

Bioethics; moral reasoning; genetic and reproductive medicine; disability and embodiment; feminist bioethics; empirical methodologies; psychoanalytic theory.
I have an overarching interest in the development of moral issues, frameworks and identities in the bioethical arena. My current research is part of the ‘sociological move’ within bioethics, with a particular focus on genetics, reproductive medicine, and neuroscience, and following a longstanding interest in the responses of socially marginalised groups and religious groups to biomedical developments and policy.

A second, related research area is disability, and the role of ‘normal’ and ‘anomalous’ embodiment in social and moral life, as well as the effect of biomedical and biotechnological innovations on the relationship between the body and identity. Much of my work uses empirical methodologies.

A large selection of my publications is available to download from Newcastle University's e-Prints service.

Current Work

I am currently Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded project, "Faithful Judgements: the role of religion in laypeople's ethical evaluations of new reproductive and genetic technologies" ( Together with Dr Jackie Haq (PEALS), Professor Sarah Banks (Durham) and Dr Robert Song (Durham), this study explores the ways in which people who identify as Christian, Muslim or Hindu deliberate and make bioethical judgements to do with techniques such as egg donation or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The project began in October 2011 and will run to September 2013.

I am also collaborating with colleagues at Northumbria University's Centre for Forensic Studies on the ethics of the forensic identification of victims of mass disasters or atrocities, focusing on the technique of DNA profiling. In December 2012 we convened an expert workshop "Naming the dead: social, ethical, legal and political issues of disaster victim identification by DNA." I continue to write and research in the general area of embodiment and disability, with a focus on disability as a factor forming moral evaluations and relationships. In this context I am a member of the "Ethics of the family in health and social care" research consortium (

Research Roles

Since September 2011 I have been Co-Director with special responsibility for research at the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre of Newcastle University.

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be happy to supervise students in any of the following areas: Bioethics in general, especially ethics of genetic medicine, reproductive medicine, neuroscience, pharmacogenomics, the pharmaceutical industry; moral reasoning and identity; disability; feminist bioethics; global bioethics.

Currently supervising:
Michelle Addison (ESRC1+3-funded), The classed and gendered contours of emotional labour. Supervision with Dr Stephanie Lawler.

Erica Timoney (self-funded), Falling through the gap: Muslim women and the construction of identities in tension. Supervision with Dr Stephanie Lawler.

Alexis Paton (self-funded), Oncofertility: the experiences of premenopausal breast cancer patients and their health care professionals of fertility preservation discussions. Supervision with Professor Erica Haimes. 

Jacqui Close (ESRC +3 funded), Ideals and expectations: Representations, practices and governance of contemporary motherhood. Supervision with Dr Stephanie Lawler.

Regula Ott (Institute of Biomedical Ethics, University of Zurich, URPP funded), Cognitive neuroenhancement. Member of thesis advisory board.

Rouven Porz (Swiss National Science Foundation), Zwischen Entscheidung und Entfremdung: Patientenperspektiven in der Gendiagnostik und Albert Camus' Konzepte zum Absurden. University of Basel.

Esteem Indicators

I am Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia, and from September 2012 to January 2013 was Visiting Professor at the Institute of European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin.

I serve on the Editorial Boards of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, Disability and Society, and of the Quaker Studies Research Association.  I review regularly for a number of journals, including Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness, Bioethics, Disability and Society, and the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.
I am a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and an International Assessor for the Australian Research Council.

From April 2012 I have been an invited member of the Oversight Group for the HFEA's public consultation on prevention of mitochondrial disease. I also served on the ethics subcommission of the Swiss Academy for Medical Science which drew up the professional guidelines Behandlung und Betreuung von behinderten Menschen (Treatment and Care of People with Disabilities). 


2011: Naming the dead: social, ethical, legal and political issues of disaster victim identification by DNA. Brocher Foundation, Geneva. Approx. CHF 25,000.

2011: Faithful Judgements: the role of religion in laypeople's ethical evaluations of new reproductive and genetic technologies. ESRC. £215, 954

2011: Known soldiers: the ethics of identifying military remains. School of GPS Research Committee Small Bids Fund. £800.

2009: Parenthood and non-parenthood in an age of assisted conception. British Academy Small Grant, with Dr Stephanie Lawler.

2005-2008: Ethical decisions about the fate of embryos: the views and approaches of couples undergoing IVF. Swiss National Science Foundation grant 1115-65990, Euro 233 917.00, and Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, Euro 31 550.00.


Undergraduate Teaching

I am Module Leader for the stage 3 module Sociology of Evil SOC3074 (not running until academic year 2013-14). I also contribute to the SaGE Faculty's module on Social Impact of Biology BIO3015.