Research projects

Several projects in the areas of research ethics, clinical ethics, and justice in health currently keep me busy.

My work in research ethics primarily aims to improve risk-benefit evaluations in biomedical research. I am especially interested in how we should define and implement thresholds of acceptable research risk, in particular the threshold of “minimal” risk in research without informed consent (e.g., research with children). I also work on the ethics of risk-adapted approaches to regulating research — that is, approaches that seek to calibrate regulatory protections for research participants, such as ethical review, to the risks posed by the research.

ETHICAL RISK project, funded by the European Commission (.pdf)

Systematic Evaluation of Research Risks project, funded by the University of Zurich (.pdf).

My work in clinical ethics focuses on treatment decision-making for incapacitated patients – that is, patients who once were competent but now have lost the capacity to make their own decisions (e.g. patients with dementia). Together with David Wendler, I have developed a novel approach to treatment decision-making for incapacitated patients – use of a “patient preference predictor” – which is intended to improve the shortcomings of current practice. We are also analyzing the results of a large quantitative survey, together with colleagues at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., that explores patients’ views on contested issues in this area.

Patients’ Priorities for Treatment Decision-Making project, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (.pdf)

My work on justice in health and health care primarily investigates the relevance of sufficiency when allocating scarce resources for healthcare. According to the sufficiency view, what social justice requires is that individuals are provided with ‘enough’ resources, well-being or capabilities. The sufficiency view has considerable intuitive appeal, but remains underexplored when compared to alternative conceptions of justice (e.g. egaliatarian, prioritarian). Together with Carina Fourie, I’m editing a volume on sufficiency and thresholds in healthcare that brings together original contributions from leading philosophers, bioethicists, and scholars in health policy.

Sufficiency and Thresholds in Healthcare project (.pdf)

I also pursue smaller projects on definitions of death and the role of the precautionary principle for public health decision making.