Anscombe Bioethics
Vatican Double Helix Staircase

Bioethics Centre

'... not just the premier Christian bioethics
institute in Britain, but one of the finest in the
world, Christian or secular'.

The Most Rev. Anthony Fisher O.P.,
Archbishop of Sydney, Australia.

About Us

The Anscombe Centre (originally known as the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics) is a Roman Catholic academic institute that engages with the moral questions arising in clinical practice and biomedical research. It brings to bear on those questions principles of natural law, virtue ethics, and the teaching of the Catholic Church, and seeks to develop the implications of that teaching for emerging fields of practice. The Centre engages in scholarly dialogue with academics and practitioners of other traditions. It contributes to public policy debates as well as to debates and consultations within the Church. It runs educational programmes for, and gives advice to, Catholics and other interested healthcare professionals and biomedical scientists.

We also run an online bookshop, where you can buy our publications securely, and make conference bookings. Please click here to visit our bookshop

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For more information please see the About Us section. See here for information on how to support us, including our educational work.

News & Events

Lecture Seven 7th Anscombe Memorial Lecture
The Anscombe Bioethics Centre is pleased to announce that the 7th Anscombe Memorial Lecture will be delivered by His Eminence Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht. The lecture will take place on Monday, 7 November 2016 at 4pm in the Aula of Blackfriars Hall, St Giles, Oxford. The lecture title will be 'Is Medicine Losing its Way? A firm foundation for medicine as a real therapeia'. The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception. The Cardinal will preside over Mass at 6.15 in the priory church of Blackfriars.

�Permissible Half Day Symposium on Double Effect The Anscombe Bioethics Centre is delighted to announce a half-day symposium on Double Effect: 'Permissible Harms'. Saturday 16 July 2016 from 1pm to 4pm at Blackfriars Hall, St Giles, Oxford.

Dr Thomas Finegan and Stephen Barrie will present papers to which Professor John Finnis and Dr Joseph Shaw will respond. There will be ample time for discussion and papers will be distributed to participants in advance. This event is FREE but please register in advance - contact or 01865 610212.

A further step to a less human future
4 May 2016 The Centre responds to research, published in Nature Cell Biology, in which human embryos have been cultured in vitro past the implantation stage of development.

Pregnancy book picture We are delighted to announce the publication by Routledge of The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth: Exploring Moral Choices in Childbearing by Dr Helen Watt, the Anscombe Centre's Senior Research Fellow. See here for a brief description of the book, chapter headings, and endorsements.
Copies are now on sale here and also on Amazon where you may also purchase an electronic/Kindle copy. To request a review copy, please contact the publisher at mentioning the journal/publication for which you would like to write a review.

Ethos book launch picture
Ethos book launch picture Book Launch - the Centre is delighted to announce the publication and launch, of Thinking Christian Ethos: the meaning of Catholic education. The book, authored by Centre staff David Jones and Stephen Barrie was launched at the annual CATSC/CES conference on 28 January with Cardinal Vincent Nichols. See here for reviews, endorsements and further details. To request a review copy, please contact CTS or

A comment on the new law on organ transplantation in Wales
On 1 December 2015 the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 will come into effect. The Centre has issued a brief comment that also gives some advice to people living in Wales about what they can do to make their views known. For further details on the key ethical issues involved in organ transplantation see On the Ethics of Organ Transplantation: A Catholic Perspective which available online or as a printed book.

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre welcomes the decision of MPs to reject the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill by a majority of 330 votes to 118. The evidence from jurisdictions that have embraced physician assisted suicide or euthanasia clearly raises grave concerns about the impact of such legislation.

While Westminster had rejected this particular bill, the ethical and political debate is sure to continue and the Centre continues to support critical discussion on this important topic.

The topic of the 6th Annual Anscombe Memorial Lecture is therefore very timely.

memorial lecture posterProfessor Joseph Boyle (University of Toronto)

�Against �Assisted Dying��

Tuesday 13th October at 4.30pm

St John's College, Oxford followed by a reception at Blackfriars, Oxford

The lecture is free but to reserve a place please mail Gwen McCourt

GUIDE ON ASSISTED SUICIDE: The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has produced a [free] guide to the evidence on assisted suicide and euthanasia and two short briefing papers (see below).

This guide aims to help people assess the potential impact of proposed legislation such as the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill sponsored by Rob Marris MP which is due to be debated on 11 September 2015. The Bill would �enable competent adults who are terminally ill to choose to be provided with medically supervised assistance to end their own life�; that is to say, it would legalize a form of physician assisted suicide.

In response to this Bill, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre has produced �Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Guide to the Evidence�. Evidence from jurisdictions that have embraced physician assisted suicide or euthanasia shows that these practices are out of control with numbers of cases increasing year on year.

What are the Courts saying about assisted suicide?

At the request of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, John Finnis FBA, Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford University and Biolchini Family Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame du Lac, Indiana, has prepared a short briefing paper entitled �Allowing Assistance in Suicide: What are the Courts Saying?� He has also made available the author�s corrected proofs of his Casenote to the key legal case Nicklinson v Director of Public Prosecutions. This Casenote was published in the Law Quarterly Review vol. 131 (January 2015), pp. 1 - 8.

The Centre has also produced a two-page briefing entitled �Eight Reasons not to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide�. David Albert Jones argues that legalizing physician assisted suicide would not address the needs of the dying but would threaten people with disabilities and those who are suicidal. Permitting healthcare professionals to �encourage or assist� suicide would undermine key principles of law, medical ethics and palliative care.

This Anscombe Centre guide to the evidence and the briefing paper complement other material which is available in the �resources� section of the website, and in particular the booklet on spiritual care of the dying and the papers in the topic-section on euthanasia.

It should be noticed that a very similar legislative proposal was debated in Scotland earlier this year. However, after considering the evidence, the Health and Sport Committee concluded that it was �not persuaded by the argument that the lack of certainty in the existing law on assisted suicide makes it desirable to legislate to permit assisted suicide� there are ways of responding to suffering (such as increased focus on palliative care and on supporting those with disabilities), which do not raise the kind of concerns about crossing a legal and ethical �Rubicon� that are raised by assisted suicide�. On 27 May 2015 that Bill was defeated in the Scottish Parliament by 82 votes to 36. Those who have concerns in relation to the legalization of assisted suicide in England and Wales (a change which would undoubtedly also have an impact on Scotland and Northern Ireland) should express these concerns to their MP well before the Bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons, which is 11 September 2015.

Thinking Christian Ethos: The Meaning of Catholic Education is the latest Centre publication. abailable in our bookshop

The video of Professor Finnis' 2014 Anscombe Memorial Lecture "Body and Soul: on Anscombe's 'royal road' to true belief" has been published on the Centre's Youtube Channel, and is available on our Multimedia page.

"On the Ethics of Organ Transplantation: a Catholic Perspective". This report is the work of an international group of clinicians, philosophers, and theologians, convened by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre. It is currently available as a pdf (free) here, and from our bookshop here (�9.95).

Tuesday 26th May - Research Seminar
Professor Christopher Kaczor (Princeton) will deliver a research seminar in Oxford on Tuesday 26th May from 1pm-3pm. His title is "Can We Believe 'All Men are Created Equal' after Darwin? Evolutionary Biology and Human Equality.�

RSVP to by Friday 22nd May. Places are strictly limited, booking is required, and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Friday 13th February 2015 - 6th Form RE conference
Sixth form conference poster This cross curricular (AQA, OCR, Edexcel) conference for sixth formers focussed on Natural Law, Virtue, and applying ethical theory to cases. In parallel with one conference session, RE/Philosophy staff had the opportunity to join a masterclass/salon with Prof. John Finnis FBA and Professor David Albert Jones.

The conference poster is available here(14.6MB) and here(209KB).

1st November 2014 - Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium
Euthanasia conference poster Serious concerns were raised at our recent conference (held in cooperation with KU Leuven, the Scottish Council for Human Bioethics and the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies at St Mary's University, Twickenham) regarding the consequences of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide. The conference included clinicians and bioethicists from Belgium, England and Scotland. A report, and video interviews are now available. The report is available here, a PRESS RELEASE here, and three video interviews conducted on the day are available here.

21st October 2014 - Professor John Finnis FBA delivered the 5th Anscombe Memorial Lecture on "Body and Soul: on Anscombe's "royal road" to true belief"
Memorial Lecture poster
The lecture will be held at 5pm on Tuesday 21st October 2014 at St John's College, Oxford. The lecture was followed by a reception at Blackfriars Hall. Poster available here
A video of this lecture is live on our multimedia pages and YouTube channel.

Dr Mary McMenamin delivered a paper to the Centre's Research Seminar on "The ethics of gene therapy" on Monday 9th June from 6pm-9pm.
Professor Nicanor Austriaco OP is the Anscombe Centre's Visiting Reserach Fellow during 2014, and visited the Centre in April/May. The focal point of his visit was a day conference on "Human Nature: Biology, Ethics, Theology" at which he presented some of his latest research. The event poster is available here

From January to March 2014 the Anscombe Centre provided a series of 6 lectures to medical and healthcare students in London. For more details, please contact David Jones at

Professor Anselm M�ller delivered the Anscombe Memorial Lecture 2013. on Friday 27th September: �On the spiritual nature of man�. This lecture is now available on our YouTube Channel

The Moral Philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe.
This major international conference on the moral philosophy of GEM Anscombe, after whom the Centre is named, was held at St Hugh's College, Oxford (where G.E.M. Anscombe was an undergraduate student) on 27th and 28th September. The conference proceedings will be published in due course.

Conference speakers included Christopher Coope, Dr Mary Geach, Prof Luke Gormally, Dr Edward Harcourt, Dr David Jones, Prof Anselm M�ller, Dr Matthew O�Brien, Prof Thomas Pink, Prof Duncan Richter, Dr Roger Teichmann, Prof Jose Maria Torralba and Prof Candace Vogler.

Prof. Jones introduces Chimera's Children at the Centre's book launch event on 19th June 2013. A monograph by Dr James Mumford Ethics at the Beginning of Life: a phenomenological critique and an issue of the journal Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics were also launched.

31 January 2014 - The Centre's response to a Department of Health consultation on standard operating procedures for independent abortion providers is available here.