Sarah Cunningham-Burley is Professor of Medical and Family Sociology at the University of Edinburgh where she is also Dean for Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences in the Medical School and the University lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. She is co-director of the Wellcome supported Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society an interdisciplinary social science and humanities research centre. In January 2024, Sarah took on the role of Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the UK’s foremost bioethics body.
How do we ensure that a thorough consideration of ethics forms part of public and policy discourse in relation to developments in biomedicine and health? In this talk I shall outline how the Nuffield Council on Bioethics is ‘Making Ethics Matter’, drawing on examples of past and current work. The field of bioethics is interdisciplinary and relevant to us all as we confront large scale societal challenges relating to biomedicine, health and social well-being and assess the ethical context and implications of specific technological developments. This requires an engaged way of working that is responsive to policy and societal challenges yet also brings foresight to shape the kinds of questions we need to ask of biomedical and related developments. I shall argue that bringing diverse forms of deliberation into bioethics will support a ‘public bioethics’, using examples from some of the collaborative public engagement research that I have been involved in recent years.