Philosophy & Bioethics Staff Seminar Series

Time: Seminars are held on Fridays at 2.15pm (unless otherwise noted)

Location: Room E561, 5th floor East, Building 11 (Menzies), Clayton campus (unless otherwise noted)

Convenor: Bob Simpson |

Upcoming Seminars – Semester 2, 2015

October 16: Katrina Hutchison (Monash): Device industry employees in the clinic: ethical issues

When you’re under the knife in the operating suite having a device implanted, would you expect a device industry employee with a laser pointer to be walking the surgeon through the finer points of implantation? When I recently interviewed surgeons, nurses and hospital managers about innovative surgery many talked about the involvement of device industry employees in clinical care. In this paper my aim is to describe a set of neglected but important ethical issues associated with this, and to offer some preliminary thoughts on how these problems might be addressed. Device industry employees are in many ways well-placed to provide technical support in the operating theatre when their devices are being implanted, and in clinical contexts involving device maintenance. They have both the requisite familiarity with the device, and an interest in ensuring that clinicians and nursing staff use it safely and effectively. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be wary. These include risks of harm to patients when reliance on industry-employed technicians leads to treatment delays, risks of harm that may be associated with patient misconceptions about the roles of these individuals, risks of harm associated with industry employee involvement in end-of-life care (e.g. device de-activation), ethical issues generated by role ambiguities such as when clinicians and nurses seek clinical advice from industry employees that takes them beyond their designated role, and the potential for conflicts of interest. The discussion is partly motivated by a concern about how these issues will play out in the future, with increasing uptake of complex implanted medical devices and prospects for implantable artificial organs, upon which patients will be highly dependent and for which technical support is time-critical.

October 23: Jacqueline Broad (Monash) and Karen Green (Melbourne): Rethinking the history of women’s rights: Astell and Macaulay on freedom and virtue

There is a common perception that the language and theory of women’s rights first emerged in the late eighteenth century as an offshoot of the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’ (1789). This paper demonstrates that the rhetoric of women’s rights has a much longer history. To support this, we focus on a concept of rights assumed in the arguments of Mary Astell (1666-1731) and Catharine Macaulay (1731-91) concerning freedom and virtue. In the writings of these women, human beings have certain entitlements by virtue of their nature as free and rational beings capable of attaining perfection or excellence of character (‘virtue’). These entitlements consist in the freedom to determine themselves toward perfection, as well as freedom from the kind of domination or dependence that would prevent that self-determination. It is argued that the ideas developed by these women represent a bridge between earlier republican traditions of civic virtue and later feminist traditions that appeal to the notion of rights. This development is not only important for the history of feminism, but also for understanding the emergence of the language of rights more generally. Reading women’s works throws light on a tradition of rights connected to moral and metaphysical notions concerning human agency, and especially the notion that an agent’s freedom is a means toward, or a necessary prerequisite for, the attainment of virtue.

October 30: Jennifer Windt (Monash): Title TBC

November 6: Alan Hajek (ANU): Title TBC

November 13: Justin Clark-Doane (Columbia): Title TBC