Floods, Foreign Aid and Moral Distance

The Daily Mail has caused something of a furore by posting an online petition calling for the UK government to use foreign aid money to help British people whose homes have been devastated by the recent floods. Whilst 143’000 have signed the petition, charities such as Action Aid have condemned the motion. Continue reading

Kissing Grandparents and Consent

It has been reported that the co-ordinator of the Sex Education Forum in the UK has advocated that parents ought to refrain from forcing their child to kiss a grandparent against their will, since this could lead to confusion over sexual consent. Kate Emmerson claims that children should be taught that their bodies are their own from “age zero”, and that the practice of forcing children to kiss a relative against their will is in tension with this message. Continue reading

Caesarean Sections, Autonomy and Consent


In the past week in the UK, an Italian woman has claimed that a health trust had carried out a Caesarean section on her against her will. Whilst details of the case are still emerging, it appears that the woman had been detained under the Mental Health Act whilst pregnant after suffering a panic attack (which, it is reported, was possibly a result of a failure to take medication for a pre-existing mental health condition). Having been hospitalized for a number of weeks, the woman was given a Caesarean section whilst under sedation without consent. It appears that a health trust had been granted permission to carry out the procedure from the Court of Protection. Further to this, Essex social services also decreed that the mother was unfit to raise the child, and took the child into its care. Continue reading

Financial Incentives, Coercion and Psychosis

In a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal, Tim Kendall draws attention to a recent study that suggests that modest financial incentives can significantly improve adherence in people treated with depot drugs for schizophrenia and other psychoses in the UK. This study looks set to reignite the debate regarding the moral permissibility of offering financial incentives as a part of medical care. Whilst those who support this practice point out that we already offer non-financial rewards to many patients, others have criticised the practice as, among other things, amounting to coercion. In this post, I shall contest this particular objection to the practice of offering financial incentives to patients as part of medical care. Continue reading

‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’: On the Unnecessity of Some Necessary Post-Mortems

Having a post-mortem (henceforth PM) carried out on a recently deceased loved one can be hugely distressing for those left behind. The procedure involves a detailed examination of the body after death, and requires what some would deem to be a violation of the deceased’s bodily integrity. For obvious reasons, the subject of the PM him or herself is not harmed by the procedure (unless, perhaps, they had previously expressed a wish not to undergo a PM). Rather, it seems that the harm that PMs do, if any, is most readily understood as being inflicted upon those of the friends and relatives of the deceased who are distressed by the idea of a pathologist examining their loved one, mere days after they have been confronted with the loss of that person. Here, I shall consider the ethics of certain legally required post mortems. Continue reading

The Law on Assisted Suicide: Time for the Buck to Stop

Yesterday, three judges representing the England and Wales Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed a challenge to a High Court ruling that Parliament, rather than judges, should decide whether the law on assisted dying should change.  The challenge was mounted by Paul Lamb (who is paralysed from the neck down and wishes to end his life, but is physically unable to do so) and Jane Nicklinson (the widow of Tony Nicklinson, a sufferer of locked-in syndrome who unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court to change the law on assisted suicide prior to his death). Continue reading

Introversion and Well-Being

A recent British study has suggested that the exhibition of certain personality dispositions in youth can serve as reliable indicators of well-being in later life . The data obtained in this longitudinal study suggest that subjects who score highly for extroversion in youth tend to report greater well-being in later life. In contrast, those who score highly for neuroticism in youth report lower satisfaction with life in follow up questionnaires; the authors also posited that these subjects also experienced indirect detrimental effects on their well-being by virtue of the psychological distress and poor physical health that has been linked to neuroticism. Continue reading

One for the Road? . . .

It was announced yesterday that the J D Weatherspoon’s firm has been given the go-ahead to open a pub in a motorway service station. Is there anything morally problematic with this development? Continue reading

Global Positioning Systems and Dementia: An Ethical Analysis

Sussex police have announced a scheme to fit people suffering from dementia with GPS tracking systems. These small devices will allow police to locate the wearer, and also allow the wearer to reach a 24 hour helpline by pressing a small button on the device. It has been claimed that these devices will save police time and resources, as well as reducing both the potential risk to dementia patients who go missing, and the anxiety that relatives of the missing person will feel when their loved one goes missing.

However, some parties have decried the introduction of this scheme as barbaric and inhumane. For example, Neil Duncan-Jordan, the national officer of the National Pensioners’ Convention, claimed that the scheme serves to stigmatise sufferers of dementia by equating them with people who have committed a criminal act. Continue reading

Art and Moral Taint

It was reported yesterday that the Tate gallery has decided to remove prints created by the artist Graham Ovenden following his conviction for child sex offences (on Tuesday 2nd April). Ovenden’s conviction itself raises difficult moral questions which I shall not address here. Ovenden is (or at least was) a celebrated portrait artist; he admitted to taking pictures of and painting nude children in the course of creating his portraiture, claiming that, in doing so, he was aiming to capture children in what he termed their “state of grace”.  Although he vigorously denied allegations of paedophilia over the course of the trial, Ovenden was found guilty of six counts of indecency and one count of indecent assault.

There may well be room for debate about whether Ovenden is a paedophile or just a harmless, albeit esoteric, artist. However, I shall not address this question here; I shall assume throughout (rightly or wrongly) that the court is warranted in describing Ovenden as a paedophile. Rather, I am interested in the Tate gallery’s response to the conviction, and more generally, the questions about the nature of art to which it gives rise. Continue reading