In pursuit of our parenting ideals: A Kantian argument against genetic selection

Jemimah S. Thompson1

1The University of Queensland

Taking a “wrongful birth” case as impetus for considering the current state of the debate on genetic selection and as a means of highlighting the various ethical intuitions involved, I argue that the debate has overstepped in assuming that any act of genetic selection might be permissible in the first place. I first address opposing arguments made by Julian Savulescu and Rebecca Bennett and demonstrate that both fail to account for the moral nuances of parent/child relationships upon which the wrongful birth case is premised. I then argue that these shortcomings follow from the moral impermissibility of genetic selection itself, which I give a Kantian expression as contravention of the categorical imperative. Acts of genetic selection violate a basic respect for humanity which is presupposed by both Savulescu’s and Bennett’s ethics of selection.


Jemimah Thompson is an Honours student studying philosophy at the University of Queensland.

The boundaries of embryo research: Extending the 14-day rule

Caitlin Davis1

1Australian National University

The disciplines of ethics, science and the law often conflict when it comes to determining the limits and boundaries of embryo research. Under current Australian law and regulations, and in various other jurisdictions, research conducted on the embryo in vitro is permitted up until day 14, after which, the embryo must be destroyed. Reproductive technology and associated research is rapidly advancing at a rate that contests current societal and ethical limits surrounding the treatment of the embryo. This has brought about the question of the adequacy of the 14 day rule and whether it is necessary for it be reconsidered and reformed. This paper will highlight some of the tensions that exist in ethics, science and the law in relation to the extension of the rule. It will be concluded that any move to extend the rule must be accompanied by close consultation with the public as the ultimate stakeholders in how the future of reproductive technology is created, constructed and contested.


I am in my fourth year of study at the Australian National University, studying a Bachelor of Arts/Law. Throughout my degree I have developed a strong interest for bioethics and health law. I am particularly interested in how emerging technologies, such as reproductive technologies, can impact upon and interact with our legal system. I evince considerable interest for advocating information with regard to current issues in bioethics and believe it is vital that the community understands how scientific developments are used in an ethical way.  I have aspirations to continue my studies in bioethics as a postgraduate student.

Decision-making capacity and unusual beliefs: Two contentious cases

Student Essay John McPhee (Law) Prize Winner

Brent Hyslop1

1University Of Otago, Post-graduate student; Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, New Zealand

Decision-making capacity is a vital concept in law, ethics, and clinical practice. Two legal cases where capacity literally had life and death significance are NHS Trust v Ms T [2004] EWHC 1279 and Kings College Hospital v C [2015] EWCOP 80. These cases share another feature: unusual beliefs.

This paper will critically assess the concept of capacity, particularly in relation to the unusual beliefs in these cases.
Firstly, the interface between capacity and unusual beliefs will be examined. This will show that the ‘using and weighing of information’ is the pivotal element in assessment.
Next, this paper will explore the relationship between capacity assessment and a decision’s ‘rationality’.
Then, in light of these findings, the paper will appraise the judgments in NHS v T and Kings v C, and consider these judgments’ implications.
More broadly, this paper asks: Does capacity assessment examine only the decision-making process (as the law states), or is it also influenced by a decision’s rationality? If influenced by rationality, capacity assessment has the potential to become “a search and disable policy aimed at those who are differently orientated in the human life-world.” (Gillett, 2012, p. 233). In contentious cases like these, this potential deserves attention.

GILLETT, G. 2012. How do I learn to be me again? Autonomy, life skills, and identity. In: RADOILSKA, L. (ed.) Autonomy and Mental Disorder. New York: Oxford University Press.


Brent is a medical graduate (Otago 2008) trained in geriatric medicine (Royal Australasian College of Physicians), currently studying towards a Master of Bioethics and Health Law degree.

Disclosure is inadequate as a solution to conflicts of interest in research

Student Essay Max Charlesworth (Bioethics) Prize Winner

 Helene Jacmon1

1Monash University

Disclosure is a common response to conflicts of interest; it is intended to expose the conflict to scrutiny and enable it to be appropriately managed. For disclosure to be effective the receiver of the disclosure needs to be able to use the information to assess how the conflict may impact on their interests, and then implement a suitable response. The act of disclosure is also intended to trigger some self-regulation, as the person with the conflicting interests will be mindful of their own potential biases and aware that their decisions may be monitored. In this presentation I will discuss some of the problems of relying on disclosure as a solution to address conflicts of interest in research. I will focus particularly on issues around the ability of research participants to manage the conflict of interest. I explore these issues in the context of the Dan Markingson case–a research participant who committed suicide during a clinical trial. I will conclude that disclosure is not sufficient to address the issue of conflicts of interest in research because: 1) participants are not well placed to accurately assess the potential impact the conflict may have on them; 2) self management is unreliable; and 3) effective management is further compromised when individual conflicts are complementary to the associated institution’s conflicts.



Helene Jacmon is currently studying towards a Master of Bioethics at Monash University. Helene previously worked in Government in a variety of roles including administrative policy, law interpretation and project management. Helene is interested in ethical issues arising from health/social policy and is passionate about justice.

About the Association

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

The AABHL seeks to foster a distinctive Australasian voice in bioethics, and provide opportunities for international engagement through its membership, journal and conferences.

Members come from all the contributing humanities, social science and science disciplines that make up contemporary bioethics.

Many members have cross-disciplinary interests and all seek to broaden the dialogues in which all members of the wider community ultimately have an interest.

The AABHL is a supportive, creative and challenging community that provides a rich source of continuing academic refreshment and renewal.

Conference Managers

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