My recent research has focused on three main areas: (1) bodies and biomaterials, (2) bodies and (bio)technologies, and (3) the use of the behavioural sciences in law and policy. All three areas are underpinned by an interest in the foundations of and boundaries in law. Amongst others, her work has been funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust.
- Bodies and biomaterials. How ought the law deal with novel challenges regarding the use and control of human biomaterials? I deal with this central question in my recent book, Self-ownership, Property Rights, and the Human Body: A Legal and Philosophical Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). In it I argue that innovation within the law is needed if we are to adequately deal with and regulate the uses of these. Biotechnological innovation requires us to re-think the conceptual and philosophical underpinnings of this area of the law. In particular, the law must confront and move boundaries which it has constructed; in particular, those which delineate property from non-property in relation to biomaterials. A key conclusion is that each person’s moral rights of self-ownership justify them holding both moral and legal prima facie property rights in their biomaterials upon separation.
- Bodies and (bio)technologies. The challenges arising in relation to bodies are bi-directional in nature; that is, in the biotechnological world biomaterials and objects move out of and into the body. Those objects moving in (e.g. relevant medical devices) present challenges to the philosophical foundations of law as it currently stands (e.g. challenging binary classifications such as subject- object). These challenges are being investigated as part of Wellcome Trust funded ‘Everyday Cyborg’ projects. See below.
- Behavioural sciences. Behavioural-inspired public policy is often framed by proponents and policy-makers as desirable strategies for achieving a range of aims. It is also frequently presented (at least by policy-makers and Government) as being a pioneering alternative to the law and traditional regulatory structures. I have drawn attention to the problematic empirical, philosophical, and political foundations of the translation and application of the behavioural sciences in law and policy. Work in this area has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Newcastle Institute of Social Renewal.
My research is unified by a curiosity in biotechnological advances and innovations, especially how these can be and ought to be dealt with by society. It also often lies at the intersection of disciplines and, as such, incorporates elements from law, philosophy, medicine and the biosciences.
Projects, Conferences, and Other Research Awards
Everyday Cyborgs 2.0: Law’s Boundary-work and Alternative Legal Futures. Everyday cyborgs are persons with attached and implanted medical devices; e.g., joint replacements, pacemakers, and limb prostheses. Increasingly, these devices are smart devices. They run software and have wifi capabilities. They collect, analyse, and transmit data. However, their integration with persons creates difficulties for the law. Unanswered questions include: (1) should internal medical devices which keep the person alive be viewed as part of the person or mere objects (or something else)?; (2) is damage to neuro-prostheses personal injury or damage to property?; (3) who ought to control/own the software in implanted medical devices?; and (4) how should the law deal with risks around unauthorised third party access and hacking? Building on preliminary research, I will answer such questions. I will use written documents, interviews, and focus groups to better understand the challenges, and test a series of imagined legal futures to assess what is practically possible and suggest solutions.
Everyday Cyborgs: Mapping Legal, Ethical, and Conceptual Challenges. A scoping project funded by the Wellcome Trust looking at challenges in relation to persons with implanted medical devices and complex prostheses.
More information at: Everyday Cyborgs
I tweet about Everyday Cyborgs, along with Edinburgh’s Gill Haddow @EverydayCyborgs
Integrating (Public) Health Policy: Ethics, Equality, and Social Justice. A small project supported by the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal which is examining potential equality and justice implications with the use of the behavioural sciences to help formulate public health policy.
A Body of Crime: Conceptualising the Dead. A scoping workshop held with Imogen Jones at the University of Birmingham. Jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Birmingham.
Influencing Health: The Normative Legitimacy of Health-affecting Nudges at State Level. I took research leave for a year to work on this Leverhulme Trust funded project. During the project I conducted a critical analysis of the extent to which strategies labelled as ‘nudges’ can be considered to be legitimate policy approaches to influencing health at state level.
Regulating Bodies & Influencing Health: Nudges, Incentives, & Public Policy. Co-funding from a Wellcome Trust Small Grant and the University of Manchester’s Wellcome Trust Strategic Programme ‘The Human Body: Its Scope, Limits, & Future’. Held in Rotterdam in June as an official pre-congress symposium at the International Association of Bioethics World Congress.
More information at: Health Nudges
The Irish Giant: Research and Development. Theatre group Cartoon de Salvo obtained a Wellcome Trust Small Arts Award. I was asked to participate in this project as the ethics/science partner.
Medical Law & Ethics in the Media Spotlight (co-applicant). British Academy Conference Grant (with support from the Society of Legal Scholars and Mills & Reeve law firm). I was successful, with colleagues in the Centre for Social Ethics, and Policy, in obtaining funding from the British Academy and the Society for Legal Scholors. The conference took place in Novemeber 2010 at the British Academy in London.
Humans an Other Animals: Challenging the Boundaries of Humanity (co-applicant). Institute of Philosophy Conference Grant. Two day conference held in June 2010.
This conference sought to examine and challenge the boundaries so often drawn in philosophy, as elsewhere, between humans and other animals. It drew on philosophical, legal and scientific perspectives in order to question the legitimacy and utility of such distinctions and thereby to explore the moral and philosophical meanings of humanity and being human.
Speakers included Professor Patrick Bateson, Dr Juan Carlos Gomez, Dr Lisa Bortolotti, Professor John Harris, Professor Margot Brazier, Dr Matteo Mameli, Professor Sarah Cunningham Burley, Professor Raymond Tallis, Professor David DeGrazia, and Professor Frans De Waal.
More information at: Humans and Other Animals
Prosocial Primates: Empathy in Animals and Humans Wellcome Trust Conference Support (co-applicant). Support to hold a public lecture at the Wellcome Collection in London related to the Humans and Other Animals conference.
This public lecture at the Wellcome Collection was held in conjunction with the Humans and Other Animals Conference. Acclaimed primatologist Frans de Waal demonstrated how empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans. He argued that understanding empathy and survival value in evolution can help to build a more just society based on a more accurate view of human nature.
More information at: Prosocial Primates
Crucible 2008 – National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). The Crucible programme was a series of interdisciplinary workshops that aimed to tackle complex challenges that cannot be solved by one discipline alone. National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. I was selected to take part in the 2008 programme, which brought together researchers from a wide range of disciplines to think innovatively about the social and technical challenges facing society.
Further details at: NESTA: Crucible 2008
Challenges at the Interface of Biolaw & Bioethics – The 3rd Annual Postgraduate Conference in Bioethics. School of Law Research Fund, University of Manchester (in conjunction with Hart Publishing Ltd. and Eversheds law firm).
Academic staff, research staff, and postgraduate students within the Centre hosted the 3rd Annual Postgraduate Conference in Bioethics. The conference aimed to bring together leading academics and postgraduate students. Speakers included Professor Emily Jackson, Dr. Mairi Levitt, Professor Priscilla Alderson, Professor Margaret Brazier, Professor SÃren Holm, and Professor John Harris. The keynote speaker was Dr Evan Harris former Liberal Democrat MP.
Further details at: Challenges at the Interface of Biolaw & Bioethics
Transplantation and the Organ Deficit in the UK: Pragmatic Solutions to Ethical Controversy (co-applicant). Economic and Social Research Council Seminar series.
Academic staff within the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy (CSEP) were awarded funding by the ESRC for a Seminar Series entitled ‘Transplantation and the Organ Deficit in the UK – Pragmatic Solutions to Ethical Controversy’. The seminar series ran from November 2006 to March 2008 and brought together national and international academic experts, policy-makers, doctors, scientists and patient representatives to consider how best to address ethical, policy and legal issues arising out of the shortage of organs available for transplantation in the UK.
Further details at: ESRC Seminar Series: Transplantation and Organ Deficit in the UK
In February and March 2014 I visited Monash University (Melbourne) and the University of Sydney as part of my Leverhulme-funded project on nudging.
I was a visiting scholar at the University of Birmingham’s law school from April to July 2013. While there I was working on my book ‘Self-ownership, Property, & the Human Body’ which is due to be published by Cambridge University Press. I was also working with Dr Imogen Jones on a paper which examines the way in which the criminal law has addressed ‘transgressions’ relating to the dead body.
In February and March 2013 I was a MacCormick Visiting Fellow at the Mason Institute at the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh where I was also working on aspects of my book. In particular, I was exploring the Human Tissue Act (Scotland) 2006, as well as property concepts and personality rights in Scots law.
In 2010 I spent some time as a visiting researcher at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine (VELiM) in Sydney where I was working on organ donation and property in the body.
In 2008 I received an Erasmus Training Grant which enabled me to spend some time as a Visiting Lecturer and Researcher at the Department of Medical Ethics in the Erasmus Medical Centre of the Erasmus University Rotterdam.