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 Bioethics 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.

Quick Links

About Us - More information on the Centre
Visit our online bookshop
Sign up to our Mailing List
Like our Facebook page
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel
View our online resources
More information on how to support us

  News

Now Available to Watch: ‘Assisted Dying: eugenics, euthanasia and medicine’

Two weeks ago, the Anscombe Centre co-organised a discussion panel for the University of London’s ‘Inter-Faith Week’ on the subject of ‘Assisted Dying: eugenics, euthanasia and medicine’.

This is the introductory speech by Prof. David Albert Jones, who is Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, and Professor of Bioethics at St Mary's University, Twickenham. His DPhil from Oxford was on the theology of death and dying. He is co-editor, with Prof Chris Gastmans and Dr Calum MacKellar, of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium (Cambridge University Press, 2017).



The panel considered the place of euthanasia in the context of the history of eugenics. It was not only in Nazi Germany but also in England and the United States that euthanasia was promoted for the same reasons as eugenics, the characterising of some citizens as a burden on the state. The current debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) is framed very differently but similar concerns about equality and vulnerability remain.

This is not only a faith issue but it is one that has had a profound effect on religious minorities in the past. The hope of participants is that interfaith discussion can help illuminate the debate over “assisted dying” and in this way contribute to the common good of society.

This event was co-sponsored by the Anscombe Centre with the University Jewish Chaplaincy and Catholic Chaplaincy for London’s Universities at Newman House. You can watch the entire discussion, here.

Ahead of the inter-faith discussion, we published the Position Paper of the Abrahamic Monotheistic Religions on Matters Concerning the End of Life produced by the Pontifical Academy for Life and signed by Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars and leaders in 2019, as part of our series of briefing papers on euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS).

The papers in our EAS series clarify the issues at stake in the social, political, and medical discussion, examining the definitions concerning, and practical consequences of legalising physician involvement in assisting a patient to end their own life, or directly causing their death. You can read the full briefing paper series on its dedicated page on our website, here.

Prof. David Albert Jones on BBC Radio Jersey Discusses Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide (EAS), Jersey, and the Citizens’ Jury

On 24th October 2021, after the Second Reading of Baroness Meacher’s assisted suicide Bill, Prof. David Albert Jones gave an interview to BBC Radio Jersey in which he discussed the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS), and the Citizens’ Jury held by the Government of Jersey on that issue, for which Prof. Jones had been one of three leading authorities to act as an independent content oversight advisers.



Have a listen to hear salient points of the debate on Jersey, and in the UK!

You can read our ongoing EAS briefing paper series on its dedicated page on our website, here.
New Paper in Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide (EAS) Briefing Series: ‘Dignity in Living: Addressing Euthanasia by Affirming Patient Personhood in Dementia’, by Dr Pia Matthews

Our latest paper in our euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) series is ‘Dignity in Living: Addressing Euthanasia by Affirming Patient Personhood in Dementia’ by Dr Pia Matthews, Senior Lecturer at St Mary’s University in Twickenham.

In her paper, Dr Matthews expounds the inclusive approach taken by the Alzheimer’s Society and others who serve people with dementia, so that people affected by that condition are supported, accepted and able to live in their community without fear or prejudice.

This is to change the fear-based narrative and ‘malignant social psychology’ that depersonalises people with dementia (as well as other conditions and disabilities), promoting and enabling unjust prejudice and discrimination and other abuses against people with dementia and their families, and reinforcing the false notion that EAS is the only solution to difficult medical situations.

Matthews shows how is is possible to live and die well with dementia, and that the alternative narrative of compassion and solidarity enshrines the real dignity deserving to those with dementia and their loved ones.

The papers in our EAS series clarify the issues at stake in the social, political, and medical discussion, examining the definitions concerning, and practical consequences of legalising physician involvement in assisting a patient to end their own life, or directly causing their death.

You can read our ongoing EAS briefing paper series on its dedicated page on our website, here.
Prof. David Albert Jones: The Jersey Citizens’ Jury on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide (EAS)

In advance of the Jersey States Assembly debate on the Proposition on euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) next week, our Director Prof. David Albert Jones has recorded this video discussing the Citizens’ Jury which took place on the island to consider the issue, and the consequent EAS proposals being considered by politicians there.



Prof. Jones was one of three leading authorities on EAS to act as an independent content oversight advisers for the Citizens’ Jury set up by the Government of Jersey to consider the possibility for legislating to licence those practices on the island.

In his video, Prof. Jones considers the Citizens’ Jury, how it was selected so as to have a preponderance of those in favour of EAS, the concerns of those who took part, and the implications of their proposals for the States Assembly of Jersey and the wider public in the Bailiwick.

You can read our ongoing EAS briefing paper series on its dedicated page on our website, here.
Latest Paper in our Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide (EAS) Briefing Series: the Position Paper of the Abrahamic Monotheistic Religions on Matters Concerning the End of Life

Ahead of the inter-faith event, Assisted Dying: eugenics, euthanasia, and medicine, which the Anscombe Centre is co-sponsoring, we have published the next in our series of briefing papers on euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS), the Position Paper of the Abrahamic Monotheistic Religions on Matters Concerning the End of Life produced by the Pontifical Academy for Life and signed by Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars and leaders in 2019.

The Position Paper was commissioned by Pope Francis at the suggestion of Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, who is a paediatric neurologist and co-chair of the Israeli National Council on Bioethics and whom the Pope had appointed as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2017.

The papers in our EAS series clarify the issues at stake in the social, political, and medical discussion, examining the definitions concerning, and practical consequences of legalising physician involvement in assisting a patient to end their own life, or directly causing their death.

You can read the full briefing paper series on its dedicated page on our website, here.
New Event: ‘Assisted Dying: eugenics, euthanasia, and medicine’ (Wednesday 17th November, 5pm-6:30pm)

In order to look to the future it is necessary to acknowledge the past. Universities and other institutions are beginning to do this with the troubled history of eugenics. A new event organised by the University of London Catholic Chaplaincy, and co-sponsored by the University Jewish Chaplaincy and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre event places the issue of assisted dying or euthanasia in the context of that history.

This event will happen via Zoom. You can see full details in our Upcoming Events section on the right of this page, and register for attendance here.

It was not only in Nazi Germany but also in England and the United States that euthanasia was promoted for the same reasons as eugenics, the characterising of some citizens as a burden on the state. The current debate over assisted dying is framed very differently but similar concerns about equality and vulnerability remain. This is not only a faith issue but it is one that has had an impact on religious minorities in the past. Our hope is that interfaith discussion can help illuminate the debate over “assisted dying” and in this way contribute to the common good of society.

Speakers (N.B. All speakers will be speaking in a personal capacity. They will be speaking from a religious perspective but not as representatives of any institutions or organisations to which they are affiliated.):

• Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman is Rabbi, New West End Synagogue, London and Jewish Chaplain to the Canary Wharf Multifaith Chaplaincy. He is also a member of the Moral and Ethical Advisory Group (MEAG), which provides independent advice to the UK government on moral, ethical and faith considerations on health and social care related issues. He has a PhD in medical physics and has recently published, with Dr Aryeh Greenberg, a Rapid Response to a BMJ article on religious views on assisted dying.

• Prof. David Albert Jones is Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre. He also is Professor of Bioethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. His DPhil from Oxford was on the theology of death and dying. He is co-editor, with Prof Chris Gastmans and Dr Calum MacKellar, of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium (Cambridge University Press, 2017). The Anscombe Centre has recently launched a series of briefing papers on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

• Prof. David Katz, Emeritus Professor of Immunopathology at University College, London, has provided advice within the Jewish community about medical and research issues, both scientific and ethical. He chaired fitness to practice panels for many years.

• Rev. Dr Philip Miller is Senior Catholic Chaplain for the universities in the Archdiocese of Westminster. He did his own university studies in Natural Sciences at Cambridge, and then completed a PhD in radio-astronomy at the Cavendish Laboratory. As well as his new post as Senior Chaplain, he has a number of other responsibilities in Westminster Diocese, including sitting on the Sick & Retired Priests’ Committee, and being Co-ordinator of the Ethnic Chaplains.

• Mohamed Omer MBE is Chair of Redbridge Faith Forum. He is Board Member for External Affairs at Gardens of Peace, the largest dedicated Muslim Cemetery in the United Kingdom. He is also a member of the Moral and Ethical Advisory Group (MEAG).

• Prof. Daniel Sulmasy is Director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Senior Research Scholar at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics and Andre Hellegers Professor of Biomedical Ethics, with co-appointments in the Departments of Philosophy and Medicine at Georgetown. He has written extensively on end of life ethics and is co-editor, with Dr Sheldon Rubenfeld, of Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Before, During, and After the Holocaust (Rowman and Littlefield, 2021).

Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide Briefing Paper Series Launched

Ahead of the Second Reading of Baroness Meacher’s ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill, as well as the consideration of proposals to introduce euthanasia in the Bailiwick of Jersey which will take place in late November, and the continuing debate about assisted suicide in Scotland, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre has launched a series of briefing papers dealing with the legalisation of physician involvement in causing the death of patients.

These papers clarify the issues at stake in the social, political, and medical discussion, examining the definitions concerning, and practical consequences of, legalising physician involvement in assisting a patient to end their own life, or directly causing their death.

The first three papers have been published on the Centre’s website, and others will follow in the coming weeks and months:

The first paper by Anscombe Centre Director Prof. David Albert Jones deals with clarifying the terms of the debate and avoiding ambiguous euphemisms for the realities being discussed.

The second by Prof. John Keown addresses the ‘slippery slope’ problems of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The third by Dr Mark S. Komrad discusses the Canadian euthanasia law and how it has followed the Benelux countries in enabling suicide for people with psychiatric disorders.

It has never been more important to achieve clarity in debates concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide, and to appreciate the full range of evidence from those jurisdictions which have experimented with physicians bringing about the death of their patients. The Anscombe Centre’s briefing paper series will inform medical professionals, legislators, opinion-formers, and the general public, about the most crucially important realities of these practices. You can read the full briefing paper series on its dedicated page on our website, here.
‘Assisted Dying’ Bill Second Reading (Friday 22nd October)

The second reading of the ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill is forthcoming on 22nd October 2021 in the House of Lords. The Bill seems to license doctors to enable terminally ill adult patients, under certain conditions, to end their own lives by the provision of lethal drugs (physician-assisted suicide).

Below we provide links to some articles and resources pertinent to this debate.

The Centre Director, Prof. David Albert Jones, gives eight significant reasons not to legalise physician assisted suicide in David Albert Jones, ‘Eight Reasons not to Legalise Physician Assisted Suicide’, 2015.

Other articles of interest:

Luke Gormally, ‘Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Seven Reasons Why They Should Not Be Legalised’, 1997

David Albert Jones and David Paton, ‘How does legalisation of physician assisted suicide affect rates of suicide?’, Southern Medical Journal 180. No. 10 (2015)

Helen Watt, ‘The Case Against Assisted Dying’

‘End-of-life care and the right to die’ (with M.Donnelly), Survival and the citizen: Micro-dialogues on key challenges No. 1., Royal Irish Academy, 2018

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has also produced an annotated bibliography of resources, with links to articles, including some that are open access:

David Albert Jones, ‘Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Guide to the Evidence’, 2015

Related Issues:

Michael Wee, Coronavirus and the misuse of ‘do not resuscitate’ orders, The Spectator, 6 May 2020

Luke Gormally, ‘Human Dignity and Respect for the Elderly’, 1998

David Albert Jones, ‘Human Dignity in Healthcare: A Virtue Ethics Approach’, The New Bioethics 21 (2015): 87-97

Anscombe Bioethics Centre, ‘The Ethics of Care of the Dying Person’, 2013

David P. Sulmasy, ‘The Varieties of Human Dignity: A Logical and Conceptual Analysis’, 2012

Dr Mark Komrad MD explains why psychiatrists should oppose euthanasia for their patients

Dr Benoit Beuselinck draws attention to lessons to be learned from Belgium

Finally, see our resources section for the full complement of the Centre’s essays and articles on euthanasia.
Statement (5 Aug 2021)
The Alta Fixsler case: Subsidiarity and the importance of circumstances

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has released a statement commenting on the ethical aspects of the Alta Fixsler case. The case involves a dispute between the parents of a seriously ill child and the healthcare team over the withdrawal of treatment and has gone before the court.

Reiterating the Centre's position on previous similar cases, David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Centre, said: 'One fundamental problem in these cases is the idea that there can be only one option that is in the child’s best interests because "there can only logically be one best option". The judge therefore seeks to identify what is best for the child independently of the wishes of the parents. However, this approach rests on the mistaken utilitarian idea that moral reasoning is a matter of mathematical calculation. [...] There are many ways to live that are morally upright and many decisions a parent may make on behalf of a child that are within reason. The question that judges should ask is not "What would I do if I were the parent of this child?" but "Is the decision of parents in this case reasonable, or does it place the child in undue danger of suffering harm?".'

Prof. Jones also noted: 'It is extraordinary that, in the overwhelming majority of such cases, decisions are reached by consensus between parents and healthcare professionals. Only very rarely do such cases lead to conflict that is irresolvable and that ends up in court. When this happens, it is important that courts do not take the decision away from parents except in cases where the decision of the parents would lead to the child suffering significant harm. Whether such action by a court is justified in a particular case depends crucially on the circumstances. Furthermore, even when such action by the court is justified, the inability of doctors and parents to find a common mind still represents a failure of communication and a breakdown of trust. Taking the decision away from the parents cannot but add to their grief.'

For more information on this issue, read the full statement.
Statement and Press Release (21 June 2021)
Mandatory vaccines for care home workers ‘profoundly unethical’


The Centre has spoken out against government proposals to make vaccination for COVID-19 mandatory for care home workers and other healthcare professionals.

Director, David Albert Jones, has said: To threaten unvaccinated workers with dismissal or redeployment ‘fails to show respect for those on whom society depends to deliver care, and who have also suffered disproportionate risk and hardship during this pandemic.’

‘For the state to threaten people who are economically vulnerable with termination of employment is a fundamental failure to respect them as persons. Such threats also undermine the freedom of the consent that is needed before administering vaccination, or any other medicine.’

For more information on this issue, read the full statement and press release.

Statement and Press Release (3 June 2021)
Bioethicists condemn relaxation of 14-day embryo experimentation limit


The International Society for Stem Cell Research recently abolished the 14-day limit on lab-grown embryo experimentation. In a statement released today by the Centre, Prof. David Albert Jones highlights the dangers of this decision. ‘Once the 14-day rule falls away, the only real limit, it seems, to experimentation would be the scientific limit as to how long embryonic or foetal human beings can be sustained outside the womb.’

‘The further the limits of research are pushed, the more scientists will be confronted with research subjects that look more recognisably human. To experiment on human embryos that are up to 14-days-old – extremely vulnerable human lives – is already a grave injustice and a form of exploitation.’

For more information on this issue, read the full statement and press release.

Conscientious Objection - Briefing Paper 13 May 2021
World Medical Association Consultation


The World Medical Association (WMA), which represents doctors throughout the world has proposed a new International Code of Medical Ethics. The draft revision of the Code would impose on doctors a requirement to refer patients for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

This requirement contradicts agreed WMA policy and exposes doctors in countries with euthanasia or assisted suicide to increased pressure to facilitate these practices.

It is important that as many people as possible write to the WMA to express their wish to see physicians behave in a conscientious manner, which at times may require conscientiously objecting to practices or procedures.

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has produced a briefing paper on the issue.
Submissions can be made here, the closing date is 28 May 2021.
The Ethics of Vaccine Passports
An interview with Prof. David Albert Jones


As the UK gradually moves out of lockdown, the government has been considering multiple strategies for reopening. Among these is the well-known, and somewhat controversial proposal for ‘Vaccine Passports’. Plans have also been put forward to introduce ‘COVID Status Certificates.’

What would these certificates, or ‘passports’, mean for citizens? And what are some of the ethical implications of them?

David Albert Jones is videoed here in conversation with Becky Short exploring these questions and more.



Detailed information on the topic can be found in Prof. Jones’ response to the government’s ‘vaccine passport’ consultation in March.

  Upcoming Events

Assisted Dying: eugenics, euthanasia, and medicine
Assisted Dying: eugenics, euthanasia, and medicine
An event for interfaith week on what is not just a faith issue


Date: Wednesday, 17 November 2021
Time: 5pm-6.30pm
Venue: Zoom

Register now
To stay up to date with our upcoming events, please sign up to our Mailing List

Like our Facebook page

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel