Congratulations to PhD candidate James Fletcher, recipient of prestigious 2017 Sowerby Prize for Philosophy and Medicine!

Huge congratulations to GHSM PhD candidate James Rupert Fletcher, the recipient of this year prestigious 2017 Sowerby Prize for Philosophy and Medicine!


James Rupert Fletcher receives the 2017 Sowerby prize

James received the prize for his essay: “Why we should assess decision-making capacity (even though we cannot)”. The prize was awarded during the annual Sowerby lecture at New Hunt’s House on the 10th of November. His winning essay will be made available on the Philosophy & Medicine website:

James-Fletcher-292-x-252pxAbout the winner:

James Rupert Fletcher is a 3rd- year PhD student at the Institute of Gerontology in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King’s College London. He is currently researching informal care from the perspectives of people diagnosed with dementia living in the community in the Midlands, UK. He is interested in interpretative approaches to dementia, as well as dementia research more broadly. He is also interested in the health and social care divide and ageing. His work is informed by symbolic interactionist and antipsychiatrist ideas, as well as social theory more generally.  To contact James:

You can also find James on twitter: @JamesRuFletcher 

About the Sowerby Prize:

In 2015, with the generous support of the Peter Sowerby Foundation, King’s College London launched Philosophy & Medicine, a joint venture between King’s Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, and The Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, whereby courses of study in philosophy were introduced into the curricula that train clinicians. The Sowerby Essay Contest is part of the Philosophy of Medicine venture and is very competitive, as it receives submissions from students and alumni of all University of London schools, including undergraduate and postgraduate, and medical and professional schools. It is the first time that a student who is not based in a Philosophy department wins the prize!

Posted in Bioethics, Philosophy of Medicine, Psychiatry | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First seminar of the GHSM Seminar Series November 8th with Professor Lochlann Jain “Monkey Milkshakes”, new work in progress on the history of virology

It is our pleasure to invite you to join us for our upcoming first seminar of the GHSM Seminar Series for the year 2017/2018!

When: Wednesday 8th November from 12.00-13.00

Where: ANATOMY MUSEUM, King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Prof. Løchlann Jain, Professor of Global Health & Social Medicine at King’s College London, will give a paper titled: “Monkey Milkshakes”.

 In this work-in-progress, Løchlann introduces her new work on the history of virology by revisiting some old stories, such as small pox and hepatitis B, to reconsider the tropes, ideologies, and fantasies that have underwritten the “medical miracle” version of vaccine history.  

Professor Lochlann Jain joins the College from the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, California.  She is a world leader in the fields of medical anthropology, legal anthropology, gender studies, and science & technology studies. She has published extensively in leading academic journals and is the author of two widely reviewed and praised books. Professor Jain’s research explores how the inevitable injuries and diseases that result from corporate and medical practices, racialized and gendered labour, and patterns of consumption have been understood and justified institutionally through economics, medicine, and law, and then how these injuries are further rendered commonsensical in science, media, and popular culture. Her work is broadly concerned with which bodies bear the costs of “progress” and the infrastructures (law, medicine, and policy) that support and normalise that distribution.  This significant research has resulted in two books:

The first book, Injury: The Politics of Product Design and Safety Law in the United States, shows how certain commercial products have come to be understood as dangerous in American injury law.  The second book, Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us, explores why cancer has remained so confounding despite the attention it has received and the resources that have been used to find a cure. Globally described as one of the most important books on cancer in decades, Malignant has sparked a new conversation about cancer as a complex social, cultural and political phenomenon. The book has won several honours and awards and has been widely reviewed in journals, magazines and newspapers.

Posted in Anthropology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Social Media research, ‘Personal Ethics’, and the Ethics Ecosystem – blog post by Dr Gabrielle Samuel, Research Associate at GHSM

This blog post was initially published here:


Dr Gabby Samuel

and authored by Gabby Samuel, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at GHSM, with Gemma Derrick: Lecturer, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University. 

Ethics review may seem overly bureaucratic to some, but in this blog we argue that a more researcher-committee collaborative process, rather than a gatekeeper ‘tick-box’ role, may help with navigating the ‘ethics ecosystem’ when using new research tools such as social media (SM) data.

The ethics ecosystem exists as an inter-related membership of academic bodies that, when fully functional, acts to reinforce a high-level of ethical behaviour from researchers, and to guard against academic misconduct.  Specifically, this ethics ecosystem can be described as all the individuals (researchers), organisations (research institutions/research ethics committees (RECs)) and external bodies (publishing houses, funding bodies, professional associations) which promote ethically responsible research behaviour in the academy. Ordinarily, the academy’s ethics ecosystem works well due to a shared understanding of what ethically responsible research behaviour is. However, this system breaks down when new ideas, methods or approaches are introduced to its members, and each player interprets and enforces theses ideals of ethical behaviour differently.  This forces each member to re-examine concepts previously thought to be set in ethical stone.  Such is the case of SM research.

Currently this system is failing SM research

Our research has spoken to members at all levels of the ethics ecosystem; researchers using SM data, research ethics committee members, universities, funding bodies, publishing houses and journal Editors, and we found that members possessed inconsistent understandings of ethics applicable to the use of SM in research.  There were different interpretations of the established ethical notions of consent (should we ask for it? shouldn’t we? when and how should we?) and privacy (how, or even should, SM users’ data be protected, and to what degree?); some members viewed SM data as ‘fair game’, while others were more cautious; and only some shouldered responsibility to protect SM users’ perceived privacy. What was lacking was an overarching understanding reinforced by a larger governance body as a mechanism to fuel a wider, community-led understanding about ethical conduct (and misconduct) towards SM research.

At the research level of the ecosystem, researchers’ were monitoring their own decisions about how best to act ethically. However, when left to their own devices this over-reliance on subjective monitoring of behaviour risks the development of a form of “personal ethics”, which would be different for each researcher within this ecosystem;

Interviewer: Are there any guidelines that you follow in your own research?

Researcher: It’s my guidelines. Everybody has their own definition of ethics…. 

This became dangerous when the acceptability of these decisions were related to how strongly researchers justify them, rather than being dependent on conduct checks and balances available by a wider, community-led ethical understanding of SM research;

You’ve got to develop the sense of what’s right…then put that across andmake your case’

The differing interpretations of personal ethics dovetailed at the institutional level of the ecosystem, when researchers had to, or chose to submit their research proposal to a REC for consideration. Committee members, as actors in this level of the ecosystem, spoke about their lack of experience in reviewing this type of research simply because so few proposals are submitted (due to the differing researcher interpretations of whether ethical review was required). As such REC judgements of ethical conduct relied heavily on researchers’ justifications of ethical decision-making within the application;

We…sometimes make different decisions even for projects that look pretty similar. It’s how they build up their case doing that particular project

The same held true for other members of the ethics ecosystem, such as the Journal editors and, by extension, peer-reviewers.

To summarise, what does this wide disagreement around SM research mean for the ethics ecosystem? After all, there is nothing wrong with ethical norms being driven by researchers’ different subjective justifications of their personal ethics a.k.a ethical pluralism. However, for SM research, and similar new research tools, reliance on researchers’ justifications of ethical behaviour can be dangerous as it risks leaving important ethical decisions in limbo, and allows for ethically problematic research to fall between the cracks.

What is needed is more governance within the ethics ecosystem.  Only then can enough checks and balances exist to ensure best practice, promote a shared understanding of SM research ethics, and provide necessary audits to protect against scientific misconduct.

One step towards this is to require researchers to submit for ethics review to provide an extra layer of scrutiny. More importantly, it provides REC members with the tacit knowledge necessary to act as this larger arbitrator of ethical conduct for SM research.

Posted in Bioethics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

One in four retired Britons return to work – research by Professor Karen Glaser

King’s researchers examining the reasons why retirees return to employment – or ‘unretire’ – have suggested that the older generation should not be forgotten by policies aiming to keep older people in work.

The ‘Wellbeing, Health, Retirement and the Lifecourse’ (WHERL) consortium, which is led by Professor Karen Glaser Head of Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and Director of the Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London, seeks to understand crucial questions for ageing societies across the globe, examining how inequalities across the lifecourse relate to paid work in later life.

new research paper by the group has shown that around one in four retirees in the UK return to work or ‘unretire’, mostly within five years of retiring.

Writing in Ageing and Society, the team from the WHERL consortium based at King’s found that while unretirement is common, men are more likely to unretire than women, as are people in good health, those who are better educated and those still paying off a mortgage. People who report having financial problems before retiring are not more likely to unretire than those without, nor are those with lower incomes. After ten years, a retiree’s chances of returning to paid work are low.

Key findings include:

  • Men were 26 per cent more likely to return to paid work following retirement than women
  • Individuals in good health were around 25 per cent more likely to return to paid work than those reporting fair, poor or very poor health
  • People whose partner worked were 31 per cent more likely to unretire
  • Mortgage payers were 50 per cent more likely to return to work
  • Those with post-secondary qualifications were almost twice as likely to return to work than those with no qualifications

Professor Karen Glaser, Professor of Gerontology at King’s College London and the WHERL consortium’s senior investigator said, ‘This is the first time we’ve examined unretirement in a general population sample from the UK and, as such, it contributes to a growing body of research examining the nature of labour force participation in later life. The fact that older people with more human capital are more likely to unretire suggests that it may be difficult for those in poorer financial circumstances to find paid work. This may lead to future disparities in later life income.’
She added:

The fact that older people with more human capital are more likely to unretire suggests that it may be difficult for those in poorer financial circumstances to find paid work. This may lead to future disparities in later life income

– Professor Karen Glaser, Institute of Gerontology

The research highlights that recently retired people, aged both above and below the state pension age, represent a pool of potential labour, if the right opportunity presents itself. They are a group that should not be forgotten by policies aiming to keep older people in work.

The team of researchers used data from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-2008) and Understanding Society (2010-2015) to examine levels of retirement reversal, or unretirement. Unretirement was defined as reporting being retired and subsequently recommencing paid employment, or beginning full-time work following a partial retirement.

Lead author of the study Dr Loretta Platts said, ‘This research highlights how common it is for people to return to paid work after retiring.’

‘Access to paid work in later life may enable retirees to supplement their pensions, stay mentally and physically active, and maintain contact with others. Given future labour shortages, the skills and experience provided by older workers are a crucial resource for business. Our research highlights how retirees are often ready to be reengaged in the workforce and that government and employers should not forget about them.’

Professor Debora Price, Director of the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing and a co-author of the paper, said, ‘This work points to the changing nature of retirement transitions and the more fluid relationships that people have with paid work around mid- and into later-life. There are messages here for employers who might want to think about these new demographics, but also for policy makers as it looks like the possibilities to supplement savings or retirement income in later life through unretirement are available to a greater extent to the already advantaged. This is a worry for those of us who are worried about inequalities in later life.’

If you want to know more:

‘Returns to work after retirement: A prospective study of unretirement in the United Kingdom’ by Platts et al is published in Ageing and Society on 1stNovember 2017. []

Other collaborators on this project include Dr. Laurie M. Corna also at the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London; Dr. Diana Worts and Professor Peggy McDonough who are at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto; and Professor Debora Price is at the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, University of Manchester.

The research was conducted as part of an interdisciplinary cross-research council consortium on Wellbeing, Health, Retirement and the Lifecourse (WHERL) under the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) programme – Extending Working Lives with additional support from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.

For further information please contact the Public Relations Department at King’s College London on 0207 848 3202 or

Posted in Bioethics, Gerontology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Congratulations to Richard Gibson (Bioethics & Society, Class of 2016) for securing a funded PhD at the University of Manchester on the ethical & legal evaluation of the practice of healthy limb amputation in cases of Body Integrity Identity Disorder

Richard Gibson, previously a Master’s student in Bioethics & Society (Class of 2016), began a PhD this academic year at the University of Manchester.

Many congratulations to Richard for being awarded a prestigious  University of Manchester School of Law Graduate Scholarship, where he is a Doctoral Candidate on the Bioethics and Medical Jurisprudence PhD course. Richard  is working on a project on the ethics and legalities of healthy limb amputation in cases of Body Integrity Identity Disorder under the supervision of Prof Søren Holm, Prof Margaret Brazier and Dr Alexandra Mullock.

Silvia with year 1 students.jpg

Richard Gibson (first from the right) graduated from the Bioethics & Society programme in January 2016. Here with (from left to right) Bioethics & Society alumni Elizabeth Carlson, Rose Mortimer, Dr Silvia Camporesi, Hanna Gouta and Andrew Barnhart.

The PhD is funded through the University of Manchester School Of Law Graduate Scholarship, and will focus on the ethical & legal evaluation of the practice of healthy limb amputation in cases of Body Integrity Identity Disorder, with a specific focus on the effect advancements in bionic and prosthetic technologies will have on such evaluations. Richard will be working with Prof Søren Holm, Prof Margaret Brazier and Dr Alexandra Mullock, and is housed within the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy.

Richard says about the Bioethics & Society programme : “I greatly enjoyed studying bioethics during my time at KCL, and know that the knowledge and skills which I gained from my time in London enabled me to be successful in my application to the University of Manchester. It was through the Bioethics & Society course that I was introduced to the topic of elective amputation; and was encouraged by the academic staff to take this interest further and examine the topic using an interdisciplinary approach. Overall, my experience at King’s most certainly gave me the skills, knowledge and experience I need to develop a career in bioethics!

cropped-human-eyeApplications are open for the Bioethics & Society programme for an entry date of September 2018. For more information:

and to apply click here:


Posted in Bioethics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment