Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Because I am interested in issues at the intersection of several areas of philosophy and applied ethics it is difficult to summarise my research interests succinctly. However I am particularly interested in medical ethics with a focus on where ideas from political philosophy can be bought to bear on problems within medical ethics. In particular I believe that an excessive focus has been placed on clinical ethics in bioethics, and this has obscured important background issues such as organisational and structural issues. As such I think that work in political philosophy can usefully inform approaches to a variety of issues in medical ethics. As such my research interests are broad, but common themes run throughout.
1. Political Philosophy:
I am broadly interested in issues in political philosophy, particularly where these intersect with issues in medical ethics. My thesis concentrates on one of these areas, distributive justice in health care.
PHD: A Luck Egalitarian Account of Distributive Justice in Health Care:
In this thesis I develop a Luck Egalitarian account of distributive justice in health care, broadly based on Ronald Dworkin’s broader theory of distributive justice. I contrast this account with other theories of distributive justice in health care. I argue that the alternative theories do not fare well in part because they cannot balance the intuition that we ought to spare no expense to aid someone if they need it with the contrasting intuition that people do not have to sacrifice all that they value to aid others. This leads these theories implausibly to either argue we should commit all our resources to the provision of health care (the bottomless pit objection) or to argue that health care should not be publicly provided. In the process of developing this account I engage with several major criticisms of luck egalitarianism more generally and show how these criticisms can be over come.
Another area of interest is public health ethics, this interest grew out of my thesis, but also because it is a place where medical ethics and political philosophy meet. I've given several presentations in this area:
Departmental Seminar: 'Health Promotion, Autonomy & Domination' Auckland University of Technology, National Centre for Health and Social Ethics, Auckland, New Zealand, 28th March, 2008.
Departmental Seminar: 'Ensuring access to essential medicines: me-too drugs, incentives & innovation'
University of Waikato, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Hamilton, New Zealand, 27th March, 2008.
Massey University, School of History, Philosophy and Classics, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 20th March, 2008.
'Health Promotion, Autonomy & Domination'
Setting an Ethical Agenda for Health Promotion 18-20 September 2007, Ghent, Belgium.
'Global Justice, Luck Egalitarianism & Global Health'
Global Health, Justice and the ‘Brain Drain' 17th September 2007, Keele University, United Kingdom.
‘Luck Egalitarianism & Public Health’
Public Health Ethics Conference, Birmingham University, UK. 16th-18th May, 2007
21st European Conference on Philosophy of Medicine and Health Care. 15 – 18 August, 2007 Cardiff, United Kingdom.
'The Challenge of Sperm Ships: The need for global regulation of medical technology' Association of Social and Legal Philosophy Conference: "Aliens and Nations: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Global Politics in the 21st Century”, Keele University UK. 19th-21st April 2007. Co-presented with Stuart Oultram, Keele University.
‘The Stranger at our doorstep: Social Change, Suicide and Political Theory’
Ethics at the margins of life, National University of Ireland, Galway, March, 29th-31st, 2007.
Papers in this area:
Apart from my thesis I have also written several papers in the area of political philosophy:
1. Hunter, D. 'Am I my Brother's Gatekeeper? Professional Ethics & the Prioritisation of Health Care' Journal of Medical Ethics. (2007);33:522-526.
2. Hunter, D. 'Proportional Ethical Review and the Identification of Ethical Issues' Journal of Medical Ethics. (2007);33:241-245. While this a paper about the process of research ethics review it relies heavily on arguments from political philosophy.
3. Hunter, D. Oultram, S. 'The Challenge of Sperm Ships: The need for global regulation of medical technology' Journal of Medical Ethics. In press.
4. Hunter, D. 'Republicanism, Domination and Animals: A question of Scope'
has received a revise and resubmit (which I am in the process of doing) from the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.
2. Research Ethics:
An area which I have become keenly interested in is research ethics. I have developed this interest through my participation on several ethics committees. I am interested in both structural and conceptual issues in the operation of research ethics committees, as well as issues at the coalface of specific ethical issues that arise when reviewing applications.
Hughes, J. Hunter, D. Sheehan, M. Wilkinson, S. Wrigley, A. European Textbook on Ethics in Research. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research Science, Economy and Society, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/document_library/pdf_06/textbook-on-ethics-report_en.pdf
Hughes, J. Hunter, D. Sheehan, M. Wilkinson, S. Wrigley, A. Syllabus on Ethics in Research. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research Science, Economy and Society, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2010.
Papers in various journals:
1. Hunter, D. 'An alternative model for research ethics review at UK universities'
Research Ethics Review. (2006) Vol 2, No 2 47-51.
2. Hunter, D. 'Placebos, and moral perils for participants'
Research Ethics Review. (2006) Vol 2, No 2 71-72.
3. Hunter, D. ‘The roles of research ethics committees: implications for membership.’
Research Ethics Review. (2007) Vol 3, No 1, 24-26.
4. Hunter, D. 'Proportional Ethical Review and the Identification of Ethical Issues' Journal of Medical Ethics. (2007);33:241-245.
5. Hunter, D. Pierscionek, B. 'Children, Gillick Competency and Consent for Research' Journal of Medical Ethics. (2007);33:659-662.
6. Hunter, D. 'Efficiency and the Proposed Reforms to the NHS Research Ethics System' Journal of Medical Ethics. (2007);33:651-654.
7. Elliott, L. Hunter, D. ‘The experiences of Ethics Committee Members: Contradictions between Individuals and Committees’ Journal of Medical Ethics. (2008);34:489-494.
8. Hunter, D. ‘Tower of Babel rebuilt: The ESRC research ethics framework and research ethics review at UK universities.’ Journal of Medical Ethics. (2008);34:815-820.
9. Hunter D. ' Is there a case for a distinction between Ethics & Policy?' American Journal of Bioethics Open Peer Commentary, (2010);10:6:24-25.
10. Wilson, J. Hunter, D. 'Research Exceptionalism' American Journal of Bioethics Target Article, (2010);10:8:45-54.
11. Hunter, D. Wilson, J. 'Response to open peer commentaries on 'Research Exceptionalism'' American Journal of Bioethics, (2010);10:8:W4-6.
1. Hunter, D. ‘Bad Science equals poor not bad ethics’ p.61-70 in Jennifer Gunning & Søren Holm, (eds.) Ethics, Law & Society (volume 3), Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company (December 2007)
I'm presently also working on several papers in the area of research ethics:
1. 'Research, non-negligent harm and justice: Implications for research ethics committees'
This paper argues that the present UK practice of not providing insurance for research participants who suffer non-negligent harm in the course of research is unethical and ethics committees ought to collectively refuse to approve risky research without this cover.
2. 'Who’s not your daddy? Discovering non-paternity in the course of genetic research, the ethical issues.
This paper examines the ethical issues that arise when you discover non-paternity in the course of genetic research. I am co-authoring this paper with Phillipa Malpas at the University of Auckland.
3. Ethical issues in New Technologies:
Another area I am interested in is the ethical and political implications of new technologies. An area I have become interested in is how new technology, often health care technology, impacts our thinking about ethics and political philosophy. We have seen this in part through the cloning and genetic engineering debates. I believe we will see our principles of justice further challenged by new technology such as nanotechnology which in combination with genetic information will undermine people's lack of control over their own genetics. Likewise AI may well challenge our current theories of moral status. Discussing this is of necessity speculative, it is hard to know how our beliefs will change until they do. Nonetheless it is important since it indicates to us now flaws in our moral theories.
I have several papers published in this area:
1. Hunter, D. Oultram, S. 'The Challenge of Sperm Ships: The need for global regulation of medical technology' Journal of Medical Ethics. (2008);34:552-556.
2. Hunter, D. 'Insuring access to essential medicines: me-too drugs & innovation' Global Health and Access to Essential Medicines symposium in the Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics. In press.
I presently have another paper under consideration in this area:
Hunter, D. L. H. 'Is Autonomy really the Key? The Debate about Prenatal Testing for Adult Onset Conditions.' is under consideration by Journal of Medical Ethics.
I'm presently developing a research plan and book proposal on some of the ethical issues raised by impact of new internet and computer based technologies on medical practice.
4. Ethical Theory:
I have considerable interest in several areas of ethical theory.
1. Moral Status:
An area that I would like to undertake further research in is the question of what has moral status, that is whose interests do we have a prima facie obligation to consider morally. For any ethical theory this is an essential question to settle. Yet while there are several accounts of this presently available, each suffers from flaws either of including things that we think ought to be left out, or leaving out things that we think ought to be kept in. I believe that part of the problem here is that most theorists take one characteristic and claim that this characteristic is both necessary and sufficient for a being to have moral status.
2. Ethical Relativism:
In one of the papers I have been working on for awhile I make a new argument against one variety of Ethical Relativism, namely Ethical Subjectivism which claims that the truth of ethical claims is relative to the beliefs of individuals. This argument is that Ethical Subjectivism cannot be true since it is possible for people to believe contradictory beliefs. If this is true and Ethical Subjectivism is true then some of the time both A and ~A would be true. This clearly cannot be the case and so Ethical Subjectivism must be false.
5. Philosophy of Religion
While I have not published in this area yet I still maintain an interest in philosophy of religion from the work I did in my masters thesis. This is an area I would like to develop in the future.
MA: God the Utilitarian? The Ethics of Theodicy
My MA thesis was on the Argument from Evil, in particular the ethical assumptions made by theodicies. In this work I argued that for theodicies (Responses to the Argument from Evil) to succeed in justifying the belief in the existence of God despite the apparent existence of evil, they are required to make certain controversial methodological assumptions. In general theodicies are required to assume that some form of consequentialist ethical theory is the correct ethical theory. Specifically theodicies require a principle such as 'the end justifies the means' and that it is permissible to trade harms from one for a benefit for others. Since Utilitarianism seems to be the best consequentialist theory to capture our other beliefs about the goodness of God, I assessed whether the argument from evil succeeds if utilitarianism is correct. I concluded that though taking a utilitarian perspective does support the ethical reasoning of theodicies there are also good reasons on the basis of utilitarianism to reject the existence of God. Finally I looked at other ways of justifying the belief in the existence of God, despite the existence of evil, given the constraint of how it seems reasonable to interpret omnibenevolence, and concluded that present theodicies require ethically unjustifiable claims to be true.