Philosophy & Ethics

From government control of health care to new reproductive technologies in this century, we'll need to be able identify key issues, articulate their values and concerns, deliberate openly and find ways forward.

The Hastings Center and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues have teamed up to publish a series of essays to highlight the best practices in teaching bioethics and to identify gaps in our knowledge of how best to inspire and increase moral understanding, analytical thinking in the moral domain, and professional integrity. The first three of these essays, which appear in the current Hastings Center Report, focus on bioethics education for practicing clinicians.



Eyes – windows on the soul?Credit: Ángelo González, CC BY-SA

By Tracy Long-Sutehall, University of Southampton

The word morality makes people uneasy – but not ethics. What is the basis of a moral education? Credit: Flood G/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

By Patrick Stokes, Deakin University

New research on the treatment of 'hardcore' female Mau Mau prisoners by the British in the late 1950s sheds new light on how ideas about gender, deviancy and mental health shaped colonial practices of punishment.

The treatment of the Mau Mau by the British has led to compensation claims in the courts. Last year the British government agreed to pay out £19.9m in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 elderly Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau uprising in the 50s. Two of those involved in the recent case were women and further female compensation cases are pending.

Is morality and happiness determined by how you affect the people around you? Credit: Shutterstock

By Peter Bowden, University of Sydney

It is a word we hear from time to time, but few of us know what it means.


A Liberian nurse disinfects a looted mattress taken from an elementary school that was used as an Ebola isolation unit in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia. AHMED JALLANZO/EPA

By Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney and Lyn Gilbert, University of Sydney

Getting informed consent from desperate people and their families for experimental treatments is quite easy.


Isaac Asimov's Three Laws Of Robotics, from the story "Runaround" in 1942, are arguably the most famous example of fictional ethics becoming so fundamental they are adopted spontaneously by everyone in an industry that hadn't even been created yet.(1)

Now that robots are widely used in caring for older people, as well as in military and industrial applications, scholars want to give them a 21st century update.

In 312, Roman Emperor Constantine was told in a dream to paint a cross on his army’s shields.[1] Based on that dream, he commanded his generals to slap crosses on pretty much everything. If it went into battle, it had a cross on it.

And lo, when his army faced the rebel army that was twice the size of his, his soldier guys smote them other soldier guys real bad and got all pre-medieval on their butts; and Constantine did declare, “Hot Damascus, it worked!” (Obviously, I am paraphrasing; I don’t speak Latin.) So, Constantine remained emperor of Rome and a Christian, sort of.