Core and affiliated staff in the Monash Bioethics Centre undertake groundbreaking research in traditional and emerging areas of bioethics. In our research, we strive for academic excellence while undertaking research that influences policy and regulation, and has impact within delivery systems for health and wellbeing.
In the latest Excellence in Research in Australia (ERA) exercise, Monash University was the only university in Australia to be awarded the top rating of ‘5’ for the area of Applied Ethics, to which the Monash Bioethics Centre is a key contributor. Additionally, Monash University was one of only two universities to receive the top rating across all criteria in the recent ERA Engagement and Impact exercise for Philosophy, including Bioethics. The case study of Professor Michael Selgelid’s contribution to Global Public Health Policy for Infectious Disease Control and Research was used to achieve this outstanding result.
Our research informs international and national scholarly debate, policy development and implementation and public understanding of the ethical dimensions of health, technology and society. We integrate our research into the Centre’s teaching and leadership programs; it is also the foundation for broad social and community engagement.
Our staff are heavily involved in social impact and community engagement activities, including media interviews, public lectures, contributions to public inquiries and the development of practice-specific guidelines in their areas of expertise.
Current research in the Centre is shaped by three programs:
Reproductive Biomedicine and Technology
Leader: Professor Catherine Mills
Associated personnel: Dr Liz Sutton (Research Fellow), Dr Julian Koplin (Research Fellow)
In recent decades, the experience of making a family has been fundamentally transformed by innovations in embryology, reproductive medicine and human genomics. From in vitro fertilisation to the emerging technologies of mitochondrial replacement techniques and genome editing, this research program explores the ethical, social and regulatory issues raised by new and emerging practices and technologies in reproductive biomedicine. It addresses foundational philosophical questions about ethical concepts such as responsibility and reproductive freedom, in tandem with in-depth empirical research. The core aims of the program are to understand and improve the reproductive experiences of women and their partners, and to contribute to the consistent and fair regulation of reproductive technologies, in Australia.
Values and Virtues in Healthcare
Leader: Professor Justin Oakley
Associated personnel: Dr Lauren Notini (Research Fellow)
Virtue ethics evaluates a person’s actions by considering what character-traits or virtues are the most relevant to act on in their situation. So virtue ethics is distinctive in looking at the psychology of human decision-making, and at the moral motivations behind what people do – in other words, the ‘human factors’ which contribute to good and bad outcomes. These human factors can play a critical role in good and bad health outcomes for patients, and for the community. Virtue ethics enables us to probe these human factors in innovative and fruitful ways. However, virtue ethics is often seen as very individualistic, and as not always very evidence-based.
This research program understands virtues within broader institutional contexts. The research program has two core aims. First, to provide more empirically-informed accounts of healthcare professional virtues, and of how virtuous dispositions can succeed or fail. And second, to transform our understanding of how institutions and policymakers can enable and support virtuous behaviour by practitioners.
Infectious Disease Ethics
Leader: Professor Michael Selgelid
Associated personnel: Dr Euzebiusz (“Zeb”) Jamrozik
Infectious disease ethics is a central topic of public health ethics, which has been one of the fastest growing subdisciplines of bioethics during recent decades. It is concerned with a wide range of ethical issues associated with infectious diseases and their control, including questions regarding the obligation of individuals to avoid infection of others; relevant professional obligations of healthcare and public health professionals; infectious disease control policy matters; infectious disease research and surveillance; and global health.
Core aims of this research program are to provide philosophically-rigorous, empirically-informed, practically-relevant guidance regarding the ethical conduct of infectious disease research and ethically sound infectious disease control policy-making in particular.