Anscombe Bioethics
Vatican Double Helix Staircase

Bioethics Centre

'... not just the premier Christian bioethics
institute in Britain, but one of the finest in the
world, Christian or secular'.

The Most Rev. Anthony Fisher O.P.,
Archbishop of Sydney, Australia.

About Us

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre (originally known as the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics) is a Roman Catholic academic institute that engages with the moral questions arising in clinical practice and biomedical research. It brings to bear on those questions principles of natural law, virtue ethics, and the teaching of the Catholic Church, and seeks to develop the implications of that teaching for emerging fields of practice. The Centre engages in scholarly dialogue with academics and practitioners of other traditions. It contributes to public policy debates as well as to debates and consultations within the Church. It runs educational programmes for, and gives advice to, Catholics and other interested healthcare professionals and biomedical scientists.

We also run an online bookshop, where you can buy our publications securely, and make conference bookings.

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Statement (5 Aug 2021)
The Alta Fixsler case: Subsdiarity and the importance of circumstances

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a statement commenting on the ethical aspects of the Alta Fixsler case. The case involves a dispute between the parents of a seriously ill child and the healthcare team over the withdrawal of treatment and has gone before the court.

Reiterating the Centre's position on previous similar cases, David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Centre, said: 'One fundamental problem in these cases is the idea that there can be only one option that is in the child’s best interests because "there can only logically be one best option". The judge therefore seeks to identify what is best for the child independently of the wishes of the parents. However, this approach rests on the mistaken utilitarian idea that moral reasoning is a matter of mathematical calculation. [...] There are many ways to live that are morally upright and many decisions a parent may make on behalf of a child that are within reason. The question that judges should ask is not "What would I do if I were the parent of this child?" but "Is the decision of parents in this case reasonable, or does it place the child in undue danger of suffering harm?".'

Prof. Jones also noted: 'It is extraordinary that, in the overwhelming majority of such cases, decisions are reached by consensus between parents and healthcare professionals. Only very rarely do such cases lead to conflict that is irresolvable and that ends up in court. When this happens, it is important that courts do not take the decision away from parents except in cases where the decision of the parents would lead to the child suffering significant harm. Whether such action by a court is justified in a particular case depends crucially on the circumstances. Furthermore, even when such action by the court is justified, the inability of doctors and parents to find a common mind still represents a failure of communication and a breakdown of trust. Taking the decision away from the parents cannot but add to their grief.'

For more information on this issue, read the full statement.
Statement and Press Release (21 June 2021)
Mandatory vaccines for care home workers ‘profoundly unethical’

The Centre has spoken out against government proposals to make vaccination for COVID-19 mandatory for care home workers and other healthcare professionals.

Director, David Albert Jones, has said: To threaten unvaccinated workers with dismissal or redeployment ‘fails to show respect for those on whom society depends to deliver care, and who have also suffered disproportionate risk and hardship during this pandemic.’

‘For the state to threaten people who are economically vulnerable with termination of employment is a fundamental failure to respect them as persons. Such threats also undermine the freedom of the consent that is needed before administering vaccination, or any other medicine.’

For more information on this issue, read the full statement and press release.

Statement and Press Release (3 June 2021)
Bioethicists condemn relaxation of 14-day embryo experimentation limit

The International Society for Stem Cell Research recently abolished the 14-day limit on lab-grown embryo experimentation. In a statement released today by the Centre, Prof. David Albert Jones highlights the dangers of this decision. ‘Once the 14-day rule falls away, the only real limit, it seems, to experimentation would be the scientific limit as to how long embryonic or foetal human beings can be sustained outside the womb.’

‘The further the limits of research are pushed, the more scientists will be confronted with research subjects that look more recognisably human. To experiment on human embryos that are up to 14-days-old – extremely vulnerable human lives – is already a grave injustice and a form of exploitation.’

For more information on this issue, read the full statement and press release.

Conscientious Objection - Briefing Paper 13 May 2021
World Medical Association Consultation

The World Medical Association (WMA), which represents doctors throughout the world has proposed a new International Code of Medical Ethics. The draft revision of the Code would impose on doctors a requirement to refer patients for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

This requirement contradicts agreed WMA policy and exposes doctors in countries with euthanasia or assisted suicide to increased pressure to facilitate these practices.

It is important that as many people as possible write to the WMA to express their wish to see physicians behave in a conscientious manner, which at times may require conscientiously objecting to practices or procedures.

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has produced a briefing paper on the issue.
Submissions can be made here, the closing date is 28 May 2021.
The Ethics of Vaccine Passports
An interview with Prof. David Albert Jones

As the UK gradually moves out of lockdown, the government has been considering multiple strategies for reopening. Among these is the well-known, and somewhat controversial proposal for ‘Vaccine Passports’. Plans have also been put forward to introduce ‘COVID Status Certificates.’

What would these certificates, or ‘passports’, mean for citizens? And what are some of the ethical implications of them?

David Albert Jones is videoed here in conversation with Becky Short exploring these questions and more.

Detailed information on the topic can be found in Prof. Jones’ response to the government’s ‘vaccine passport’ consultation in March.

Press Statement (16 April 2021)
Bioethicist calls for moratorium on human-primate interspecies embryos.

Centre director, David Albert Jones, has condemned the actions of a US-Chinese team of scientists who produced interspecies embryos including human cells and those of a non-human primate.

These deeply unethical experiments create a “disturbing ambiguity” owing to “the closeness of the species and the early stage of development.”

“Science requires clear ethical boundaries if it is to maintain public trust and an essential moral boundary is that between the human and the nonhuman.”

Read our full statement, and the associated press release here.

Press Statement (29 March 2021)
Bioethicist warns against the dangers of “vaccine passports” and vaccinating children for the benefit of adults.

Prof. David Albert Jones has responded on behalf of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre to the government review on “COVID-Status Certification.” The government is considering a system of electronic certificates, or “vaccine passports” which may restrict access to restaurants and pubs, sport and entertainment venues, and even employment to those who had been vaccinated or possess antibodies against the disease.

Prof. Jones notes that this proposal “has been recommended as a way of encouraging younger people to seek vaccination.” However, he warns that “there comes a point where ‘encouragement’ becomes coercion. The more extensive the scope of these measures, in relation to activities included and people affected, the more likely they are to constitute unethical coercion.”

The Centre has released the consultation response document, along with a press release.

2021 Emergency Appeal
The Anscombe Bioethics Centre urgently needs your help.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people’s lives, not only in terms of loss of life, but to physical and mental health, jobs and security. It has also raised a host of ethical issues and the
Anscombe Bioethics Centre has been leading the way in responding. There is no other Centre in the United Kingdom or Ireland that provides our level of expertise in Catholic bioethics.

However, Covid-19 has had a catastrophic effect on our finances. We need your support to continue – click here to find out how to help us.

COVID-19 Vaccines, Allocation, and Love of Neighbour
A Zoom seminar

On the 22nd February, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre hosted: ‘COVID-19 Vaccines, Allocation, and Love of Neighbour.’
Dr Thana de Campos presented an insightful paper on the question of allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines, appealing to principles at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching – solidarity, subsidiarity, and stewardship. Dr Xavier Symons gave a response which brought practical considerations into the conversation.
The two presentations were then followed by an engaging time of questions from the audience.

Thank you to both Thana and Xavier for their time and contributions, and to all who made the event such a success.

A full recording of the event is now available to watch on YouTube:

Press Statement (4 Feb 2021)
Pippa Knight: A deeply flawed court decision

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a press statement and summary highlighting the deeply flawed ethical reasoning behind a recent court decision to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from a five-year-old child despite the wishes of her mother that the child be allowed to live.

The case of Pippa Knight has similarities to the earlier cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans where ventilation was withdrawn against the wishes of their parents.

Centre Director David Albert Jones offers a detailed analysis of the judgement here, and a summary is available here.

Website redesign
The Anscombe Bioethics Centre is seeking design and development services for a new website

We are inviting proposals for this project, to be submitted before 4pm on 8th February 2021. Proposals should include a recommendation for the site’s ‘back end’ system, a sample front page, and examples of previous work.

More information can be found in our Invitation to Quote.
Press Statement (12 January 2021)
Depriving people of food and water despite their previously expressed religious beliefs

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a press statement and a briefing paper expressing grave concern over a recent court judgement which would withdraw food and fluids from a committed, practising Catholic patient. At the time of writing provision of food and water has been restored until an appeal can be made to the European Court of Human Rights.

David Albert Jones says: “From a Catholic perspective, to provide food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty is a corporal work of mercy. Patients should not be abandoned to die from lack of nutrition or hydration, however that is best provided.”

The thoughts of the staff of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre are with RS and with his family at this time and we assure them of our prayers for him and for all those close to him.
The Ethics and Efficacy of Test and Trace
A Zoom panel discussion

On 16th September, the Centre held a Zoom panel event on the Ethics and Efficacy of Test & Trace. Speakers Philip Booth, Raphael Cohen-Almagor, and Ryan Meade presented their thoughts on the scheme in the UK and further afield, reflecting on the balance between privacy and public health, and wider questions of civil liberties and the changes we are observing in society as a result of the pandemic.

They've been a long time coming, but the videos are available now. We made a YouTube mini-series of the three talks, which you can view here:

Can Catholics receive vaccines that used a foetal cell-line?
An interview with Dr Helen Watt

As news begins to emerge of the efficacy in trials of various Covid-19 vaccines, reports of the use of foetal cell-lines at some stage for some vaccines – notably Oxford-AstraZeneca - have sparked concern for Catholics and other pro-lifers. But what is a foetal cell-line, exactly? Is it ever admissible for Catholics to receive a vaccine which has employed one? How can we approach these moral questions in the context of a global pandemic?

Dr Helen Watt explores these questions and more in an interview with Michael Wee:

Mind, Brain or Heart?
The Ethics of Treating Mental Illness

On 4 November 2020, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre held its fourth Zoom event on the subject of mental illness and its treatment. Speakers engaged with the topic from anthropological, clinical, and philosophical angles, each of which complemented the others. We thank Dr Neil Armstrong, Prof. Patricia Casey and Michael Wee for sharing their insights with us, and we thank the participants too for joining in and contributing to what was a fascinating discussion.

A video recording of the event is now available on our YouTube channel:

New COVID-19 Briefing Paper
Mental health and the ethics of lockdown

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has published a new briefing paper in its COVID-19 series, on 'Public Mental Health and the Ethics of COVID-19 Lockdowns'.

All our COVID-19 briefing papers can be found on our dedicated page for this series. With this series we aim to address ethical issues of particular interest to the Catholic community, and the wider general public, that have arisen in the course of the pandemic. These papers examine the challenges we have faced and the lessons to be learnt in order to improve the ongoing response to coronavirus, and they also identify key questions for a post-COVID-19 future.

In order of publication, the briefing papers address the following topics:

1. Resource allocation and ventilators
2. COVID-19 vaccines and foetal cell-lines
3. The NICE guideline on critical care decision-making for adults
4. Care homes and older members of the community
5. COVID-19 and adults with learning disabilities or autism
6. Commentary on the Pontifical Academy for Life’s Global Pandemic and Universal Brotherhood
7. The ethics of pandemic lockdowns
8. An Irish perspective on the ethics of triage
9. Public mental health and the ethics of lockdown
Dying Well in a Pandemic
A conversation about treatment decisions & spiritual care

On 13 July 2020, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre held a Zoom event on the subject of dying well, with specific references to the challenges of the ongoing pandemic such as the difficulties in accessing spiritual care or being present at loved ones' bedsides. We thank Dr Kathryn Mannix, Dr Liz Toy and Fr Giles Pinnock for guiding us through this discussion so ably as our panellists, and we thank all participants for joining in and contributing to what was a fascinating evening for all of us.

A video recording of the event is now available on our YouTube channel:

Press Statement (3 July 2020)
Proposed amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill in relation to abortion

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a press statement commenting on proposed amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill that seek to entrench the provision of home abortions in law and to remove the restrictions and safeguards of the Abortion Act 1967. The Domestic Abuse Bill is due to receive its Third Reading on 6 July 2020.
COVID-19 and Medical Ethics:
A dialogue session for Catholics in Healthcare

On 25 June 2020, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre held its first Zoom event on the COVID-19 crisis. It was wide-ranging discussion, with topics like care homes, virtual consultations with GPs and other doctors, the 'new normal' for the NHS and the uncertainties involved in providing moral advice at this time all featuring in the conversation.

We thank Dr Adrian Treloar, Dr Pia Matthews and Dr Andrew Papanikitas for agreeing to be panellists, and we thank all participants for joining in and contributing to what was a fascinating evening for all of us.

A video recording of the event is now available on our YouTube channel:

Press Statement (20 May 2020)
Opt out organ donation system in England

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a press statement commenting on the introduction of an opt out system for post-mortem organ donation in England, which takes effect today.
Visiting Research Fellow 2020:
Dr Xavier Symons

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has appointed Dr Xavier Symons as Visiting Research Fellow for 2020. Dr Symons is a Research Associate in the Institute for Ethics and Society at University of Notre Dame Australia in Sydney and is the convener of the Bioethics and Healthcare Ethics research programme.
Press Statement (27 Jan 2020)
Appointment to the Pontifical Academy for Life

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a press statement welcoming the appointment of Mr Michael Wee, the Centre's education and research officer, to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Anscombe Memorial Lecture 2019
Video recording

A video recording of Dr Maureen Condic's lecture, 'Twinning and Human Individuality', is now available on our YouTube channel:

The Anscombe Memorial Lecture:
'Twinning and Human Individuality'

Maureen On 8 Nov 2019, Dr Maureen L. Condic delivered the 10th annual Anscombe Memorial Lecture. addressing the subject of identical twinning and the status of the human embryo.

Dr Condic is Associate Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and a Correponding Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Anscombe Memorial Lecture is an annual series given in honour of the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who taught at Oxford and Cambridge and was well-known for her defence of human life. The Lecture is co-sponsored by Blackfriars Hall.

We are grateful to Dr Condic for giving such a fascinating lecture, and to Blackfriars Hall for their continued support.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide:
Philosophical and Empirical Perspectives

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre held a half-day symposium on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Papers were given by:

- Dr Jorge Martinez (Associate Professor, Institute of Philosophy, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile)
- Prof. David Paton (Professor of Industrial Economics, University of Nottingham)

With responses by:

- Prof. David Albert Jones (Director, Anscombe Bioethics Centre)
- Dr Pia Jolliffe (Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford)

Jorge Symposium
Date: Saturday, 19 October 2019
Time: 1pm-4.30pm
Venue: Blackfriars, Oxford

Briefing Paper (18 Sep 2019)
The Law Commissions' Consultation on Surrogacy Law

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a briefing paper on an ongoing consultation on proposed reforms to surrogacy law in the UK. The Anscombe Centre encourages all interested parties to respond to this consultation, details of which are provided in the briefing paper, along with a brief presentation of the ethical considerations involved.
Anscombe and Aquinas: Perspectives on Virtue
A joint research seminar

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre and the Aquinas Institute of Blackfriars, Oxford held a joint research seminar on 'Anscombe and Aquinas: Perspectives on Virtue'. Papers were given by:

- Dr Janice Chik (Visiting Scholar, Aquinas Institute)
- Mr Michael Wee (Education and Research Officer, Anscombe Bioethics Centre).

Anscombe Aquinas
Date: Thursday, 11 July 2019
Time: 2pm-4.30pm
Venue: Blackfriars, Oxford

Press Statement (24 June 2019)
Forced abortion is not the mark of a humane society

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a press statement welcoming the Court of Appeal's decision to overturn a ruling of the Court of Protection which would have forced a mentally disabled woman to have an abortion at 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Privacy and Autonomy in Medical Law and Ethics:
Emerging Trends

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre held an international symposium on emerging trends in medical law and ethics. Papers were presented by:

- Prof. Ryan Meade (Loyola University Chicago Law School)
- Mt Rev Dr Thomas Paprocki (University of Notre Dame Law School)

With responses by:

- Prof. Jonathan Herring (Oxford University Law Faculty)
- Very Rev Dr Robert Gay (Blackfriars, Oxford).

Date: Tuesday, 25 June 2019
Time: 1pm-4.30pm
Venue: Aula, Blackfriars, Oxford
Elizabeth Anscombe Centenary Symposium:
Ethics and Agency

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre held a symposium to mark the 100th anniversary of Elizabeth Anscombe's birth, on the theme of 'Ethics and Agency'. Papers were presented by:

- Prof. David Albert Jones (Director, Anscombe Bioethics Centre)
- Prof. Maria Alvarez (Professor of Philosophy, King's College London)
- Dr Roger Teichmann (College Lecturer in Philosophy, St Hilda's College, Oxford)
- Dr Lucy Campbell (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, University of Warwick)

Anscombe Lecture 2018
Date: Monday, 18 March 2019
Time: 1pm-4.30pm
Venue: Blackfriars, Oxford

For more on the life and philosophical thought of Elizabeth Anscombe, please visit this page.

  Upcoming Events

Anscombe Lecture 2021
The 2021 Anscombe Memorial Lecture
Pandemic Bioethics and the Common Good
The Rev. Dr Nicanor Austriaco OP

Date: Monday, 21 September 2021
Time: 4pm-5.30pm
Venue: Zoom

Register now
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