Responsibility and Healthcare

Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease

The Oxford Martin Programme on Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease: Bringing together zoology, history, philosophy, psychology and medicine, our four-year project addresses the central research question: What is the role of collective responsibility in the genesis of and appropriate response to the threat of infectious disease? Our principal aim is to generate disease-specific policy recommendations for collective action on influenza, malaria, antibiotic resistance and vaccine-preventable childhood infections.

Individual Responsibility and Healthcare

Julian Savulescu’s Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award: Responsibility and Healthcare. This project addresses questions such as: What is moral responsibility and does it matter in healthcare? Should treatment decisions and the allocation of resources take into account whether patients are responsible for their condition? Is it the physician’s role to encourage patients to take responsibility for their health? Does addiction undermine responsibility?

We are conducting a number of research projects on this topic. For example, right now we working with Wilmington Healthcare to understand how medical doctors think about healthcare and responsibility, looking at whether and how trained medical professionals think that patient responsibility should be incorporated into healthcare decisions.

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The Practical Ethics Video Series makes the most important and complex debates in practical ethics accessible to a wide audience through brief interviews with high profile philosophers in Oxford.  Video interviews on this and other topics can be found on our YouTube channel.

Featured interview with Dr Rebecca Brown



Brown, R., (2018), 'Subfertility deserves attention, but not because it is a disease', BioNews comment piece. Philosophers have debated how best to define health and disease for some time. The main two approaches focus on biological nature and social construction. The first identifies disease as biological deviations from the norm. The second argues that societies construct diseases by responding to certain conditions in particular ways, for instance by treating them with medicine. Neither of these definitions is universally accepted. Subfertility provides an example of why it can be so difficult to determine exactly what makes something a disease. (16 July).

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