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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Theoretical and Empirical Bioethics

BSMS > Research > Clinical and experimental medicine > Theoretical and Empirical Bioethics

Theoretical and Empirical Bioethics

Theoretical and Empirical Bioethics research within BSMS focuses on a number of key areas that complement and enhance the research activity within the school, enrich the undergraduate curriculum and provide the basis for a range of outward-looking activities.

Our researchers are influential in their chosen fields and BSMS has become a hub for ethics-related activities locally and nationally. The medical ethics and humanities team are key contributors to the school's widening participation activities and community engagement.


Ethics of practice

Over ten years, Prof Bobbie Farsides has been a key member of an experienced team of researchers conducting externally funded interdisciplinary studies on the role and experience of healthcare professionals and medical scientists operating within ethically contested areas of medicine and biomedical science.

These areas include stem cell research, foetal medicine, embryo experimentation, ante-natal screening and testing, and transplantation and donation.

Translational research and neurodegenerative disease

In 2009 the ongoing achievements and future potential of this team were recognised when The Wellcome Trust awarded funding to the London and Brighton Translational Ethics Centre (LABTEC). The focus of the centre's work is on the ethical and social issues relating to translational research into the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

LABTEC's interest is primarily focused upon motor neurone disease and Parkinson's disease but Professor Farsides' interest in neurological disease has also led to an ongoing involvement with the Huntington's Disease (HD) Association. She has addressed both professional carers and affected families within the HD community – locally and nationally – and is currently developing joint research interests with the charity.

Ethical issues in research in developing countries

The ethics team have a long term interest in bioethics research and practice in the developing world.

They have worked closely with Prof Melanie Newport to develop the school's involvement in this area through the incorporation of Rapid Ethical Appraisal techniques in BSMS research, contributions to the Global Health MSc and the supervision of PhD students.

Care of dying

Professor Farsides has a long-standing interest and involvement in the ethics of cancer and palliative care, having established the country's first specialist postgraduate course in the Ethics of Cancer and Palliative Care back in 1993.

The team have published and spoken widely on their experience of using dramatic form to express and explore ethical dilemmas at the end of life. BSMS hosts the Sussex Palliative Care Ethics Forum where practitioners come to discuss the ethical challenges of their work.

Body parts, donation and transplantation

Professor Farsides has written on this topic over a period of almost 20 years looking at both the theoretical and practical issues involved in the acquisition and use of human body parts.

As well as academic articles, she has contributed to legal cases, was a member of the Department of Health's Organ Donation Taskforce, Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords and is a current member of the UK Donation Ethics Committee.

Professor Farsides is a co-applicant on a NRHI Project Grant, looking at developing an intervention to encourage organ donation among black and ethnic minority communities in the UK.

Clinical Ethics journal

Bobbie Farsides is founder editor of the Royal Society of Medicine's journal Clinical Ethics.

Supported by an expert editorial committee and prestigious advisory board, she has established the reputation of the journal both nationally and internationally, publishing articles from a wide range of contributors.

Medical Humanities

BSMS offers a number of student-selected components (SSCs) in medical humanities.

They include:

  • Bleeding Hearts and Fevered Minds in the Heart, Lungs and Blood modules
  • Bedlam and Beyond in the Neuroscience and Behaviour module
  • Maternity Longing and Loss in the Reproduction and Endocrinology module.

These SSCs offer students an understanding of some of ways that engaging in the humanities may enable them to gain better insight into their own motivation and practice, allow them to become familiar with some of the literature (poetry, drama, prose and film) on the topics covered, and give them an opportunity to write a short story or piece of drama, poem or critical essay.



EPPiGen – The Ethical Preparedness in Genomic Medicine project – is a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science (2017-2022) grant number G2330 £1.2M.

more about the EPPIGEN project >

Ethics in Performance

Brighton has a reputation as one of the most cultural cities in Europe. It is a centre for the arts, offering an extraordinary range of galleries, museums, film, comedy and theatre and a world-class annual festival.

Ethics in Performance at BSMS provides a regular calendar of free public events in collaboration with a variety of artists throughout the year shows, demonstrating our commitment to engaging with the wider community. These bring medicine together with art through a range of literary, film, art, phography and performance events.


Read about our work in Ethics and Performance >