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Onora O'Neill
Onora O'Neill
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Press Release - 09 May 2007

Public lecture: The role of autonomy in medical & research ethics

Local residents are invited to a lecture on the debate surrounding informed consent in medical practice and research. The talk will be given by Baroness Onora O'Neill, President of the British Academy of Humanities & Social Sciences, at 7pm on Tuesday 15 May.

Informed consent is a legal position whereby an individual can be said to have given consent in full knowledge of the implications of that decision. Informed consent is now seen as essential for research and clinical ethics to protect individual autonomy, and there have been calls for it to be more explicit or specific.

Baroness O’Neill said: “These aims are rarely feasible, and the empirical evidence shows that it is extremely hard, and often strictly impossible, to meet either standard. Nor is there much evidence that consent procedures secure autonomy for patients or research subjects.

“Why do we advocate impractical or impossible requirements, and why to we insist that they are needed to secure autonomy? Can we find a more plausible account of informed consent, and a more robust reason for requiring consent procedures?”

Baroness O’Neill has written widely on political philosophy and ethics, international justice and bioethics. She has always related her interests to some of the most important and intractable issues of modern life, such as DNA testing, reproductive choice and cloning.

A professor of philosophy at Cambridge University, she became a peer in 1999 and an Honorary Graduate of the University of Bath in 2004. A past chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission, Onora O’Neill is also on the board of trustees of Sense about Science, a charitable trust founded to promote an evidence-based approach to scientific issues in the public domain.

The lecture is part of the Gerald Walters Memorial Lecture series. The series is named after Dr Gerald Walters, who was the University’s first Reader in the humanities and established a reputation for himself for both his scholarship and political achievements. The theme of the lecture programme is to explore the relationship of science and technology to society.

The lecture will take place on the Claverton Campus in 8 West 3.22 (Note room change) at 7pm on Tuesday 15 May. Admission is free but tickets must be reserved in advance from Stephanie Marshall, Events & Ceremonies Office, tel 01225 383659, email s.j.a.marshall@bath.ac.uk


The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/

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