The Plunkett Centre conducts research in the following areas:

Contemporary normative theory, in particular virtue theory, and its relation to Kant's ethics and consequentialism.

Clinical ethics, in particular the goals of medicine, the canons of therapeutic responsiveness; competence, consent and decision-making about sick children; end-of-life decision-making; advance care planning; assisted reproductive technologies; organ and tissue donation; professional role ethics, the law and clinical ethics; regenerative medicine; public health ethics.

Psychiatric ethics, in particular the threat of psychopathology to moral identity and moral agency, respect for autonomy, competence and coercion, moral responsibility of impaired persons, law and psychiatry, and the ethical challenges posed by developments in neuroscience in this area.

Bioethics, in particular the Catholic Christian contribution and its debates with and relationships to contemporary secular bioethics.

Research Ethics, in particular traditional debates about ethical standards with respect to research involving human participants and research involving animals; contemporary debates about genetic technologies, biotechnologies, stem cells, biobanking, etc.

Resource allocation, in particular debates about the roles of the individual, the family, the market and the state in the provision of health care.

Computer ethics (in medical contexts), in particular the role online therapies play in treatment, reduction in costs, effectiveness, threats it poses to the clinician-patient relationship.

Bernadette Tobin

Chapters in Books

  • MacIntyre’s Paradox, The ethics of human enhancement: understanding the debate, eds Steve Clarke & CAJ Coady, 2016. Oxford University Press
  • ‘I hope I believe in God’: some implications for contemporary ethics, Culture and Christianity in Dialogue, ed J Ozolins, Springer, 2016. Switzerland, 17-28
  • Just care at the end of life, Health Care Ethics: from theory to practice,  eds J Ozolins & J Grainger, 2015. Cambridge University Press, 263-276
  • Contemporary Moral Philosophy and Happiness, Truth and Faith in Ethics, ed H Ramsey, St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs, Imprint Academic, 2011: 71-84
  • Our Genetic Future, Issues for Church and Society in Australia, ed M Whelan, 2006. St Paul’s Publications, Sydney, 33-4
  • John Hubert Plunkett, Passing the Torch, ed Peter Gray, 2005. Aisling Society, 150-152
  • Why we should have maintained a prohibition on destructive research on human embryos, God Down Under, Theological Conversations in the Antipodean, eds W. W H Lam & I. Barnes, 2003
  • Is there a distinctly surgical ethic?, Restoring humane values to medicine, eds I. Kerridge, C. Jordens,  E.Sayers: Desert Pea Press, 2003.  203, pp18-20
  • Withholding and withdrawing treatment, Surgery Ethics and the Law,  2000. ed B Dooley, M Fearnside & M Gorton, Melb, Blackwells, 7-18
  • Can a patient's refusal of life-prolonging treatment be morally upright when it is motivated neither by the belief that the treatment would be clearly futile nor by the belief that the consequences of treatment would be unduly burdensome?,  Issues for a Catholic Bioethic  ed L Gormally, 1999, Linacre Centre, London, 334-340.
  • Science, Technology and Social Conscience,  Discerning the Australian Social Conscience, 1999. ed  F Brennan, Jesuit Publications, Sydney
  • Deliberately cloning human beings: on the significance of even contemplating it, A Question of Justice - Challenge: Technological Change, 1997. A Terry & D Giugni, McGraw-Hill
  • Why we should not remove the legal prohibition on euthanasia, The Last Right?  Australian take sides on the right to die, 1995. eds S Chapman & S Leeder, Reed Books, Sydney

Articles in Refereed Journals

  • D. Isaacs.  B. Tobin.  Female genital mutilation: how should doctors respond? J Paed Child Health, 2017 (forthcoming)
  • S. Matthews. B.Tobin. Human vulnerability in medical contexts. Theor Med Bioeth. 2016. 37.1-7
  • K Gray. D. Isaacs. H. Kilham, B. Tobin, K. Waters.  Use of guidelines when planning home care of a girl with severe congenital myopathy. J Paed Child Health, 2016. 52: 7-10.
  • B. Tobin.  When doctors and parents disagree: a recent example of a morally-appropriate collaboration between parents, doctors and the court, J Paed Child Health, 2014. 50, 8. 586-587
  • Gray, K.  Isaacs, D.  Kilham, HA. Tobin, B. Spinal Muscular Atrophy type I: Do the benefits of ventilation compensate for its burdens? J Paed Child Health, Vol 49, 2013, 807-812
  • Jordens, C. O’Connor M. Kerridge, I.  Stewart, C.  Cameron, A. Deown, D.  Lawrence, J.  McCarrity, A. Sachedina, A. Tobin, B.  Religious perspectives on umbilical cord blood banking, Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol 19. No 3, 2012. 497-511
  • Isaacs, D. Fitzgerald, D.  Tobin, B.   Palivizumab: a debate about funding, J Paed Child Health, 48, 2012, 373-377
  • Gillis, J. Tobin, B. How certain are you, doctor? Pediatr Crit Care Med 2011, 12,1. 71-72
  • Isaacs, D. Tobin, B. Hamblin, J.  Slaytor, E.  Donaghue, K. Munns, C. Kilham, HA. Managing ethically questionable parental requests: Growth suppression and manipulation of puberty. J Paed Child Health 2011; 47: 9, 2011: 581-4
  • Tobin, B.  That’s right, isn’t it?  Old and new ethical issues in paediatric care,  J Paed Child Health 2011; 47:  9, 2011: 579-5802
  • IH Kerridge, CFC Jordens, R Benson, R Clifford, R Ancheny, D Keown, B. Tobin, S Bhattacharyya, A Sachedina, L Lehmann, B Edgar.  Religious Perspectives on embryo donation and research, Clinical Ethics, 2010; 5: 35-45.
  • D Fitzgerald, D Isaacs, B. Tobin. Palivizumab: A debate about funding, J Paed Child Health, Advance Access: 10 October 2010; doi: 10.1111/j. 1440-1754.2010.01865x
  • S. Alexander, L. Baur, R. Magnusson, B. Tobin: ‘When does severe childhood obesity become a child protection issue?’ Medical Journal of Australia (2009), 190 (3): 136-140
  • D. Isaacs, H. Kilham, J. Leask, B. Tobin:  ‘Ethical issues in immunization’, Vaccine 2009 29; 27(5): 615-8
  • B. Tobin.  Is the use of invasive ventilation in children with genetically proven spinal muscular atrophy type 1?,  Pediatric Respiratory Reviews, Vol 9 Issue 1,  March 2008, 55-56
  • D. Isaacs. M. Ryan, S. Jacobi.  H. Kilham. B. Tobin.   Consent to publication of ethics cases: children deserve a voice’, British Medical Journal, Vol 337, 13, 2008, 608-609
  • M. Ryan, H. Kilham, S. Jacobe, D.Isaacs.  B. Tobin. Spinal muscular atrophy type 1: Is long-term mechanical ventilation ethical?  J  Paed Child Health, 43, 2007, 237-242
  • D. Isaacs, H. Kilham, A. Gordon, H.Jeffery, W. Tarnow-Mordi, J. Woolnough, J. Hamblin. B. Tobin. ‘Withdrawal of neonatal mechanical ventilation against the parents’ wishes’, J Paed Child Health,  2006. 42, 311-315
  • P. Cooper, J. Collins, V. Levearux, D. Isaacs, H. Kilham.  B. Tobin.  Rebecca’s Story, J. Paed Child Health, 2005. 41, 453-455
  • B. Tobin.  Australian Consequentialism: An Australian Critique, Theor Med Bioeth. 2005. 26, 3, 165-173
  • D Isaacs. HA Kilham. HM Somerville.  EV O’Loughlin:  B. Tobin. Nutrition in cerebral palsy, J.Paediatrics and Child Health, 2004. 40, 5/6, 308-310)
  • D Isaacs, R Garsia, B Peat, RS Magnusson. B Tobin. HIV in pregnancy: the interests of the mother and the baby, J  Paed Child Health,  39, 1, 2003, 60-66
  • B. Tobin.  Reasoning about Embryos, Cloning and Stem Cells: a response to Malcolm Parker, Monash Bioethics Review, 2003.  22, No1, January 2003, 8-21
  • P. Glare.  B. Tobin  End of life issues: case 2, MJA, 2002.176/21, 80-81
  • S R Leeder. E Somerville. B.  Tobin.   Community v individual benefit, MJA,.  176, 279-280
  • B. Tobin.  Editorial, Contemporary Nurse, 2002.  12, No3, June 2002, 209-212
  • B. Tobin.  Advancing the field of clinical ethics: particularity and practicality, MJA,174, 269-270.
  • M. Parker.  B. Tobin.  Refusal of Treatment, MJA, 2001. 174, 21 May, 531-532
  • I Cameron.  B. Tobin.   End-of-life issues: Case I, MJA, 2001. 175, 424-425
  • B. Tobin. Patient-requested treatment, J Paed Child Health, 2001. 37, 501-503.
  • B. Tobin.   The Principle of Justice: a Bioethical Perspective, Philippiana Sacra,  XXXVI, 2001. 41-61.
  • B. Tobin. Challenging our inventiveness: ethics today, Australasian Catholic Record, 2000. 77, 2, April, 148-157.
  • B. Tobin.   Hydration in a dying patient,  J Paed. Child Health, 2000. 36, 4, 395-396.
  • B. Tobin.  Why we should maintain a prohibition on destructive research on human embryos,  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine, 2000.  30.4, August,  498-502.
  • B. Tobin.  The virtues in John Wilson’s approach to moral education, Journal of Moral Education, 2000.  29,  3, 301-311.
  • B. Tobin.  The new genetics: some metaethical and normative issues, Interface, 1998. 1, 2, 66-92.
  • B. Tobin.   Comment on 'Unity and diversity in psychiatry: Some philosophical issues', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1996. 30, 3
  • B. Tobin.   Drugs and brain death: A matter of 'practical certainty', Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 1996. 23, 8, Supp 2
  • M. Kennedy et al.  B. Tobin.   Controversies in health care: drugs and brain death: ethical considerations, MJA, 1996. 165, 394-398
  • B. Tobin.   Did you think of buying her a cat? Some reflections on the concept of autonomy, Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy, 1995. 100- 110
  • B. Tobin.   Reply to Christopher Ryan, Australasian Psychiatry, 1994. October, 2,  5
  • B. Tobin.   The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the role of cognition in Christian life, The Australasian Catholic Record,  1994. LXX1, October
  • B. Tobin.   Moral Development: a key to human happiness, J.Institute of Catholic Education, 1990. 11
  • B. Tobin.   Peters’ Theory of Moral Development,  J Phil Education,  1989. 23, 1
  • B. Tobin.   An Aristotelian Theory of Moral Development, J Phil Education, 1989. 23, 2
  • B. Tobin. Development in Virtues, J Phil Education, 1987. 22, 2

Articles in Conference Proceedings

  • Più parole e meno pezzi di carta: I fiduciari: uno strumento più valido dei testamenti biologici per includere nuove realtà nella moralità tradizionale’, in  Le dichiarazioni anticipate di volontà sui trattamenti sanitari, 12a Commissione permanente del Senato (igiene e sanità) Palazzo della Minerva, Marzo 2007,  46-62 [‘More talk, less paper: health care proxies: a better means for extending traditional morality than are living wills’, Proceedings of the Senate of the Italian Republic, 29th March 2007]
  • Patients’ Rights, Forum in Bioethics 8: Justice, Patients’ Rights, Psychoethics, eds F B Gomez, OP & A Yu-Soliven, UST Publishing House, 45-61, 2001
  • The Principle of Justice: a Bioethical Perspective, Forum in Bioethics 8: Justice, Patients’ Rights, Psychoethics, Fausto B Gomez OP & Anniela Yu-Soliven, MD editors, UST Publishing House, 2001, 3-26,
  • Why the return to a virtues-based ethics of health care?  Ethics Fatigue: the Fracturing of Medical Ethics, Proceedings of Conference conducted by the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney, 1998. 35-41.
  • Tolerance: its meaning, value and limits, Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Australasian Association of Canon Lawyers, 1995. Perth
  • People who express a wish to die: what do they really want? Proceedings of the Australian Bioethics Association Conference, 1994 Adelaide  (with Dr Paul Glare)
  • Dying with Dignity: an evaluation of the interim guidelines from NSW Department of Health, Proceedings of the Philosophy and Applied Ethics Conference, 1993. University of Newcastle, 197-203
  • Practical Wisdom and Health Care: an account of the contribution of Virtues Ethics to the Practice of Medicine and Nursing, Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, 1992. UNSW Press
  • Organ Transplantation: Consent and Consensus, Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Centre 1992: for Human Bioethics, 1992. Monash University
  • Why Prefer a Virtues-Based approach to health care ethics? Proceedings of the Australian Bioethics Association Conference, 1992, Sydney

Other Articles

  • Surrogacy laws may be a bridge too far for Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, 26th April, 2015
  • ‘Voluntary Euthanasia: it can only be a way station to the non-voluntary’. ABC Religion and Ethics, 13 November 2015
  • Catholicism and Capital Punishment: How is capital punishment to be evaluated? Bioethics Outlook, 26.2. 2015: 1-8
  • The truly seminal work of Pellegrino: a synthesis by Sulmasy, Bioethics Outlook, 26.3. 2015: 1-4
  • Voluntary euthanasia: why it can only be a way station, Bioethics Outlook, 2015 26.4; 1-3
  • Surgeon report cards: a desirable development? Bioethics Outlook, 2015. 26.4; 11-12
  • ‘I just need to be able to talk to someone I know the patient trusted!’ Why Catholic Health Australia has prepared a new brochure for advance care planning, Bioethics Outlook, 25, 2, 2014, 1-4
  • Anticipate and Communicate: Presidential Commission’s advice on ethical management of incidental and secondary findings in clinical, research and direct-to-consumer contexts. Bioethics Outlook, 25, 3, 2014, 1-5
  • Advance Care Planning Explained,  Health Matters, 65, 2013; 22-23


Steve Matthews

Steve Matthews is Senior Research Fellow at the Plunkett Centre for Ethics. He has previously worked at Macquarie University, Charles Sturt University, and Monash University, where he wrote his doctorate in philosophy on the metaphysics of personal identity and its implications for ethics. He now works mainly at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry, publishing widely on questions of ethics in relation to these areas. The focus of his research concerns how selfhood and agency is understood in contexts of psychopathology (where the biological self is under threat) and online contexts (where the social self comes under threat). These vulnerabilities lead to losses in the capacity to secure primary goods, such as careers, and relationships. A series of ARC-funded projects have applied this framework to the cases of mental illness, addiction, and dementia. In addition, he has published over fifty peer-reviewed articles, guest-edited a range of journal special issues, and has organized a number of workshops and conferences on these and related ethical issues. 

Selected publications 

  • “Moral self-orientation in Alzheimer’s Dementia”. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal. June 2020. 
  • “Diminished autonomy, consent, and chronic addiction”. In Beyond consent: limits and alternatives to informed consent in research ethics and law. Bernadette Richards & David Kirchhoffer (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2019. 
  • “Stigma and self-stigma in Addiction,” (With Anke Snoek and Robyn Dwyer) Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 14(2), 275-286, 2017. 
  • “The Significance of Habit,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (4), 394-415, 2017. 
  • “Dementia and the Power of Music Therapy,” Bioethics, 29, 573-9. 2015.
  • “The imprudence of the vulnerable,” Ethical theory and moral practice, 17, pp791-805, 2014. 
  • “Truth, Lies and the Narrative Self,” Co-authored with Jeanette Kennett. American Philosophical Quarterly, 49 (4), 301-15, (2012)
  • “Anonymity and the Social Self,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 47 (4), 351-363 (2010)
  • “Mental Time Travel, Agency and Responsibility”. Co-authored with Jeanette Kennett. Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives. Matthew Broome, Lisa Bortolotti (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2009), pp327-351. 
  • “Normative Agency” Co-authored with Jeanette Kennett. Practical Identity and Narrative Agency, Catriona MacKenzie, Kim Atkins (eds). New York: Routledge. (2008) 
  • “Privacy, Separation, and Control,” The Monist, vol 91 (1), 130-150 (Jan 2008)
  • “Delusion, Dissociation and Identity,” Co-authored with Jeanette Kennett. Philosophical Explorations VI, 31-49, (January, 2003)
  • “Identity, Control and Responsibility: the Case of Dissociative Identity Disorder,” Co-authored with Jeanette Kennett. Philosophical Psychology, 15, 509-526 (December, 2002)
  •  “Unreal Friends,” Co-authored with Dean Cocking. Ethics and Information Technology, 2, 223-231 (2000)
  • “Survival and Separation,” Philosophical Studies, 98, 279-303, (April, 2000) 
Xavier Symons

Selected publications 

  • With Reginald Chua. “Rationing, responsibility and blameworthiness: an ethical evaluation of responsibility-sensitive policies for healthcare rationing”. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal (forthcoming)(accepted 22nd July 2020).
  • “Conscientious objection -- why the professional duty argument is unconvincing”. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (forthcoming) (accepted 24th December 2019).
  • With Reginald Chua. ‘‘’Alive by default’: An exploration of Velleman’s unfair burdens argument against state sanctioned euthanasia”. Bioethics 34;3 (2020): 288-294.
  • “Strengthening the ethical distinction between euthanasia, palliative opioid use and palliative sedation”. Journal of Medical Ethics 46(2020): 57-58.
  • With Clare O’Callaghan, Natasha Michael, David Kissane et al. “Patients’ and caregivers’ contested perspectives on spiritual care for those affected by advanced illnesses: a qualitative descriptive study.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 58;6 (2019):977-988.
  • ‘Pellegrino, MacIntyre, and the internal morality of clinical medicine’. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 40;3 (2019): 243-251.
  • With Reginald Chua. “Organismal death, the dead-donor rule and the ethics of vital organ procurement”. Journal of Medical Ethics 44;12 (2018): 868-871.
  • With Natasha Michael, Julia Trimboli and Clare O’Callaghan. ‘Extending awareness of Catholic Healthcare ethics amongst junior clinicians: A qualitative study’. Journal of Health and Religion 57;4 (2018): 1440-1450.
  • “The right to know vs. the right to privacy: Donor anonymity and the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Act 2016 (Vic)”. The Medical Journal of Australia 207;9 (2017): 377-378.
  • “Two conceptions of conscience and the problem of conscientious objection”. The Journal of Medical Ethics 43 (2017): 245-247.
  • ‘On the univocity of rationality: a response to Nigel Biggar’s ‘Why religion deserves a place in secular medicine’’. The Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (2015): 870-872.
  • ‘A response to Robert Zuradzki’s ‘preimplantation genetic diagnosis and rational choice under risk or uncertainty’’. The Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (2014): 779.

Media and public engagement

  • ‘Pandemic ethics, herd immunity and the protection of vulnerable members of the community’. ABC Religion and Ethics 8th May 2020.
  • ‘Who lives and who dies’. Interview with Andrew West. ABC Religion and Ethics Report 25th March 2020. 
  • ‘Rationing care to cope with COVID-19 should never be based on age alone’. Sydney Morning Herald 14th March 2020.
  • ‘The delicate balance of enforcing quarantine laws’. Sydney Morning Herald 5th March 2020. 
  • ‘Assisted dying bill leaves sick and elderly open to coercion’. Sydney Morning Herald 9th December 2019.
  • 'Human enhancement: The promise and perils of gene-editing technology'. ABC Religion and Ethics 29th October 2019.
  • ‘Doctors’ right to opt out of procedures because of religion extended under new laws’. (Interview). SBS News 30th August 2019.
  • ‘Assisted dying bill reinforces deadly cultural assumptions’. Sydney Morning Herald/The Age 17th June 2019.
  • ‘The mystery of genealogy and the ethics of donor conception’. ABC Religion and Ethics 29th April 2019.
  • ‘Reason we cared so much for trapped Thai boys’. The Sydney Morning Herald 18th July 2018.
  • With Reginald Chua. ‘Organismal death, the dead donor rule and the ethics of vital organ procurement’. Journal of Medical Ethics Blog, 28th June 2018.
  • ‘Does the Doctrine of Double Effect Apply to the Prescription of Barbiturates? Syme vs the Medical Board of Australia’, Journal of Medical Ethics Blog, 22nd September 2017.
  • With Udo Schuklenk. ‘Viewpoints: should euthanasia be available for people with existential suffering?, The Conversation, 6th July 2017.
  • ‘All children deserve to know who their parents are’, The Age, 2nd March 2017.
  • ‘Euthanasia and palliative sedation are distinct concepts – intent matters’, The Conversation, 15th June 2016.
  • ‘Me Before You: life, disability and ‘inspiration porn’’, The Conversation, 15th June 2016.


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