Unit for Bioethics: Research

Flagship research topics

The Unit is currently engaged in the following research:

  • The ethics of human enhancement
  • The ethics of reproductive technology, particularly embryo-experimentation, stem cell research and cloning
  • Ethical and socio-political problems surrounding HIV/AIDS in Africa
  • Physician-assisted suicide
  • Advance directives
  • Altruism and self-interest in medical practice
  • The problem of global resistance to drugs, particularly in the case of tuberculosis
  • Integrating western and traditional African medicine: ethical perspectives
  • Patients’ rights in the South African context

Services

The Unit provides the following services:

  • Presentations on themes in bioethics
  • Lectures/seminars for Continued Professional Development (CPD) in the medical profession
  • Conferences on selected themes in bioethics;
  • Consultation on ethical decision-making for health care workers and institutions;
  • Advising institutions involved with policy-making and -application;
  • Conducting courses and workshops in the field of bioethics;
  • A Bioethics Discussion group which meets every three weeks and is comprised of various medical professionals who have completed the MPhil course as well as philosophy postgraduate students who have an interest in bioethics

Bioethics discussion group

A very significant addition to the activities of the Unit has been the creation in 2013 of a discussion group on bioethical issues. This was primarily intended as an intellectual sounding board and think tank of Prof. van Niekerk’s team of postgraduate students who work in the field. Anybody with an interest in the subject, however, is welcome to attend. The group commenced with a series of discussions on the human enhancement problematic which is currently the main topic of research in the Unit. Meetings are roughly every three weeks for about 90 minutes to two hours at a time. At each session a speaker presents on a chosen topic which is then followed by a group discussion. It is hoped that this activity will in future lead to larger conferences and to publications of individuals or the team.

Publications

Journal articles

  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2013. Phronesis and an ethics of responsibility, (with Nico Nortjé). South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 6 (1), June: 28-31.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2013. The morality of enhancement and longevity, The Specialist Forum, 13 (4): 57-61.
  • Hall, S. 2013. The ethics of discriminatory sex-selective abortion: is legal prohibition our best option? The Specialist Forum, October.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A 2014. The legitimacy of race as variable on the deliberations of Institutional Review Boards. US-China Law Review, 11 (9).
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2014. Biomedical enhancement and the pursuit of mastery and perfection: a critique of the views of Michael Sandel. South African Journal of Philosophy, 33 (2):155-165. Accessible at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02580136.2014.923697.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2014. After humanity: philosophical and moral perspectives on the idea of posthumanity, Studies in Sociology of Science, 5 (2): 119-124. Available from: URL: http://www.cscanada.net/index.php/sss/article/view/4848
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2014. Moral perspectives on covert research, The South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 7 (2): 55-58. Accessible on: http://www.sajbl.org.za/index.php/sajbl/article/view/320/355
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2014. Three ethical issues in the development of public genetic health policies in Africa”, accepted for publication in The Journal of AIDS and Clinical Research, 5, (12).
  • Hall, S. 2014. Is the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act guilty of disability discrimination? South African Journal of Philosophy, 32 (1): 36-46.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A 2015. Designer babies and superhuman: ethics, genetics and future reproductive health. Accepted for publication in: Transactions of the College of Medicine.
  • Palk, A. 2015. The implausibility of appeals to human dignity: An investigation into the efficacy of notions of human dignity in the transhumanism debate, South African Journal of Philosophy: 34(1): 39-54.

Book chapters

  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2013. South African Bioethics. In H ten Have & B Gordijn (Eds.), Handbook of Global Bioethics. Amsterdam: Springer: 1475-1493.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2013. Disability and biomedical enhancement: conflict or co-existence? In: L Swartz, J Claassen & LD Hansen (eds.), Searching for dignity: conversations on human dignity, theology and disability. Stellenbosch: Conference-RAP (Sun MeDIA): 103-116.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2015. Ethics of Psychopharmacology (with D.J. Stein), in: J. Sadler, W. Fulford & C.W. van Staden (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Ethics, volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2015. Exploitation, in: Henk ten Have (ed.): Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Berlin: Springer.
  • Van Niekerk, A.A. 2015/16. Sexual ethics, in: Henk ten Have (ed.): Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Berlin: Springer, 2015/16.