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Sydney Health Ethics

Asking ethical questions relating to health and medicine
We focus on the ethical issues across health, medicine and the life sciences by applying approaches and methods drawn from the humanities and social sciences.

About us

Sydney Health Ethics conducts research and teaching in bioethics and health-related social science using multidisciplinary methods. Our mission is to achieve a positive social impact by engaging in academic and public conversations about the ethics of health and wellbeing.

We produce rigorous, critical and engaged ethics and social research, teach bioethics and qualitative research methods and work with communities locally, nationally and internationally to understand and address real-world issues.

Our research

Our research spans a range of areas and disciplines, including:

  • Public health ethics
  • Research ethics
  • Ethical, socio-political and epistemic aspects of science and medicine
  • Experience of illness and healthcare
  • Clinical ethics
  • Ethics of patient care, health services and health policy
  • Philosophy of medicine, science, language and knowledge
  • Medical humanities and ethics
  • Ethics of science and biotechnology

Research highlights

  • Professor Angus Dawson and Associate Professor Chris Jordens are involved in research on ethical issues related to asylum seekers and refugees, which outlines why migration should be seen as a public health and public health ethics issue. 
  • From late 2018, Associate Professor Ainsley Newson will lead the ethics research within a new national $20 million study to pilot pre-conception genetic carrier screening, a program aiming to inform reproductive decision-making. Ainsley will lead research to critically investigate the ethical implications of such a program, including whether frameworks of public health ethics should apply in reproductive contexts.
  • Dr Julie Mooney-Somers leads a program of research on sexual minority women’s health. In collaboration with Dr Rachel Deacon and ACON Health, she runs the world’s longest running periodic survey of lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s health. This work provided evidence for Cancer Institute NSW to fund research into smoking, including the ‘Smoke Free Still Fierce’ community awareness campaign. 

Study options

Our innovative and interdisciplinary postgraduate program in bioethics will help you develop the critical skills you need to analyse ethical issues in medicine, life sciences and health.

Students consider questions like: What is bioethics and why is it important? Why is public health a moral enterprise? How should the law respond to ethical issues in health? What is ‘medicalisation’? What makes research ‘ethical’? How do we make medicines safe, effective and accessible? What are the limits of autonomy and consent? What do we owe non-human animals? Why might art transform health and healthcare? 

Courses are offered in a variety of formats to suit students with competing time demands.

For further information please contact Dr Claire Hooker, Program Director

We provide support and training to our students, giving them the opportunity to participate in weekly seminars and monthly team meetings, contribute to our teaching programs in their areas of expertise, and self-organise peer support and skill-building activities.

Expressions of Interest

If you are interested in becoming a research student at Sydney Health Ethics, you will need to submit an expression of interest. If successful, we will support you to apply to the University of Sydney for an official HDR place. 

Before you submit an expression of interest: 

  1. identify a Sydney Health Ethics academic who you think would be a good supervisor for the project you want to do
  2. contact the academic and introduce yourself 
  3. prepare and submit your Expression of Interest with the support of that academic.

You will need: 

  • your CV
  • copy of your academic transcript
  • statement of support from an academic referee
  • a sample of written work (eg undergraduate assignment, thesis chapter, dissertation or published or unpublished paper)
  • Statement of Purpose describing your interests, reasons for pursuing an advanced degree at Sydney Health Ethics (1-2 pages) and your long-term goals
  • project outline (1-2 pages) including background, research aims and research questions, method and anticipated outcomes – this is not assumed to be a final product but assists us in assessing your ability to choose a topic to research, identify research questions and plan your investigation
  • a brief outline of any formal discussions with Sydney Health Ethics staff and your preferences regarding supervision (if you have any).

To submit your expression of interest, email Mr Jay Lee at

You can submit an expression of interest at any time. However, please ensure that you submit at least one month ahead of the relevant University application date. 

Please note: Sydney Health Ethics does not have the authority to offer an official place in a Higher Degree Research (HDR) program. This authority rests with the University of Sydney. An expression of interest is only the beginning of the process of entering a HDR program with Sydney Health Ethics. 

For further information on study options and how to apply for a research degree visit the postgraduate research page.

Sydney Health Ethics offer short courses through the Sydney School of Public Health in bioethics and qualitative research methods.

Our short courses will appeal to:

  • clinicians and other professionals working in health-related fields seeking professional development or continuing education,
  • early career researchers and PhD candidates who wish to develop their experience, skills and knowledge and
  • experienced researchers interested in advancing their career or moving into new areas.

Learn more or register for our upcoming short courses.

Get involved with us

For a project that connects creative arts or humanities with health or medicine

Open to all University of Sydney students.

From community singing to analysing cli-fi, from narratives of autism in modern fiction, to making art with artists with disability, intersections between the humanities, arts and health are growing. The Harold and Gwenneth Harris Endowment for Medical Humanities, known as The Harris Foundation, is currently offering up to 8 small grants to fund student projects in these areas. Funding will be provided for any project where the creative arts intersect with health and/or the humanities. For some project ideas see the application package (docx, 109 KB), section Project Examples.

The grant is open to all students at the University of Sydney, in any Faculty, and at either Undergraduate or Postgraduate level. Grant holders will be known as the ‘Harris Awardee’. Applications from groups of students who would like to collaborate on a project are encouraged. Previous applicants and awardees are encouraged to re-apply.

Value: up to $3,000 per project
Application deadline: 31 October 2019 (midnight)
Further information:
 application package (docx, 109KB)
 application form (docx, 116KB)

Give today to help fund the research work we do.

Visit the Support us page to find out more.

Research project: Growing Up with Cancer

The Growing Up with Cancer project used research and creative practice to understand the experience of having cancer during adolescence and young adulthood.

Funded by the Australian Research Council, it brought together researchers, artists, advocates and clinicians at the Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney, the University of Newcastle, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and CanTeen, the Australian organisation for young people living with cancer. 

The project used mixed methods research to examine the nature and impact of cancer illness and treatment on the experience of growing up through adolescence and young adulthood.

Our people

  • Christiane Klinner
  • Jay Lee
  • Professor Warwick Anderson 
  • Associate Professor Mark Arnold
  • Sarah Baldwin
  • Professor Thomas Boulton
  • Professor Stacy Carter
  • Dr Christopher Degeling
  • Professor Vikki Ann Entwistle
  • Professor Gwendolyn Gilbert
  • Dr Ross Halpin
  • Dr Su-Yin Hor
  • Professor Ian Kerridge
  • Professor Paul Komesaroff
  • Associate Professor Andrew Lane
  • Associate Professor Paul Macneill
  • Dr Christopher Mayes
  • Katherine Moloney
  • Professor Kathleen Montgomery
  • Professor Ian Olver
  • Anne Preisz
  • Associate Professor Michael Robertson
  • Dr Camilla Scanlan
  • Dr Linda Sheahan
  • Dr George Skowronski
  • Professor Heiko Spallek
  • Professor Colin Thomson
  • Dr Tom Walker
  • Mary Wyer
  • Dr Vicki Xafis
  • Dr Jane Williams


Headshot of Professor Angus Dawson
Professor Angus Dawson
View academic profile

Headshot of Associate Professor Christopher Jordens
Associate Professor Christopher Jordens
View academic profile

Headshot of Ainsley Newson
Associate Professor Ainsley Newson
View academic profile

Contact us

  • Level 1, Building 1, Medical Foundation Building 92-94 Parramatta Rd Camperdown NSW 2050
Enter from Parramatta Rd, go through the first glass door on your left under the arch and proceed to level 1.