Who is bioethics for?
Arianne Shahvisi (Brighton and Sussex Medical School), Peter G. N. West-Oram (Brighton and Sussex Medical School), Herjeet Marway (University of Birmingham), Elliot Porter (University of Birmingham), Richard Gorman

May 24, 2024, 10:00am - 4:00pm
Ethics, Brighton and Sussex Medical School

United Kingdom

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Brighton And Sussex Medical School
Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Topic areas


Who is bioethics for? 

10am-4pm, 24th May 2024

Garrett Anderson Rooms, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex

As part of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School’s 20th anniversary celebrations, the ethics team is pleased to announce a symposium addressing the question ‘Who is bioethics for?’.

This event seeks to develop interdisciplinary conversations to explore the limitations of two concepts that are central to bioethical enquiry: solidarity and moral status.

Solidarity is often seen as a positive force, to be closely aligned to justice, fundamental to the existence of communities, and necessary to the pursuit of social change.  Historically “solidarity” has been a rallying cry for progressive movements,  with some accounts of solidarity explicitly referring to it as being tied to the broader project of justice more generally. However, while solidarity often generates valuable benefits for group members, the enactment of solidarity also functions to define group boundaries which can exclude certain categories of person. This can have the effect of disadvantaging, or even harming, those to whom solidarity is not extended – citizens and legal residents of wealthy countries enjoy privileged access to welfare state systems which are inaccessible to non-citizens for instance. Further, some solidarity groups are defined not merely by the prioritisation of group members, but by their opposition and hostility towards those they perceive to be beyond the boundaries of their solidaristic concern. Some scholars have (though, not uncontroversially) also begun to question the possibilities for solidarity with, or on behalf of, the more-than-human world.

Moral status, or moral personhood, entitles a person to be included within the moral community, and forms the basis for any claim that the person has been wronged. Referring to moral status is critical to protecting against harm or seeking justice when harms have occurred. Bioethicists have devoted significant attention to the criteria for moral status, but less time has been devoted to interrogating the applications of moral status, and what can be learned from its failures in practice. Though, work outside of bioethics has considered how regard for moral status is understood (and hence, practiced) by different professionals, publics, regulatory logics, and social categories. Students of bioethics are encouraged to consider contentious limit cases of moral status (e.g. that of a fetus, a person with reduced or unknown capacity, or a non-human animal), and there are lively debates in the literature regarding the possibility of scales of moral status. There is also a need to consider how different academic disciplines engage with and mobilise ideas of ‘moral status’, exploring diverging conceptualisations that lead to disparate understandings of who and what is, or should be, included within a moral community. However, little attention has been given to the reality that even where full moral status is uncontroversial, it is inconsistently applied as is, and in a great many contexts, it offers no protection against harm. What can our responses to genocide, global health inequality, and environmental destruction teach us about how moral status works in the real world? If moral status is so toothless in relation to so many humans, what hope is there for its extension to other elements of the biosphere?

This workshop will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to discuss these and related questions, with the broader aim of thinking about who and what is excluded from the moral community, and the place of bioethics in better holding us all to account.

If you would like to attend, please contact [email protected]

Lunch will be provided to all participants, please let the organisers know of any dietary or other needs when registering.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




May 20, 2024, 12:00pm BST

Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.

RSVPing on PhilEvents is not sufficient to register for this event.