The Centre convenes interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences connected to health. Our research aims to combine practicality with the highest levels of theoretical rigour.

The Health Humanities Centre explores how methods from the humanities and social sciences may be brought to bear on the study of biomedicine, clinical practice, the politics of health care, experiences of health and illness, and their portrayal in literature, film and contemporary culture. Amongst the departments represented are History, Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, Philosophy, Mental Health, Population Health, Global Health, Laws, Political Science, The Institute of the Americas, Geography, Political Science, The Slade School of Fine Art, the School of European Languages, Culture and Society and the Medical School.

Outputs include policy reports and interventions as well as conventional academic articles and books.

Our research is organised around four main research units:  

Evaluation and Measurement of Health and Wellbeing

Our research examines the nature of health and wellbeing, what it is to live well and to die well, how health and wellbeing should be measured and evaluated for public policy purposes, and the fair distribution of health resources. 

"Dying Well": Enacting Medical Ethics

This interdiscplinary collaboration between the actors and artists of the theatre group, [Foreign Affairs], academics from the Schnitzler Digital Edition Project and the Health Humanities Centre has been aided by a UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing Small Grant. It consists of a theatre production and a symposium, exploring the theme of ‘dying well’ in Schnitzler’s medical drama Professor Bernhardi, where the eponymous Jewish doctor prevents a Catholic priest from giving the last rites to a patient who is unaware that she is dying. Performances run from 23-25 Sept 2015, with a symposium on 26 September.

Valuing Health: Wellbeing, Freedom and Suffering

This international conference in June 2015 examined Dan Hausman's newly published book Valuing Health: Well-being, Freedom and Suffering. A team of commentators, and the author himself, addressed themes raised by the book, including:

  • Definitions of health, and why they matter;
  • The relationship between health and well-being;
  • The contribution of phenomenology to understanding and evaluating health states;
  • How to measure health for public policy purposes;
  • Justice in the allocation of scarce health resources.

A selection of the papers will be published in Public Health Ethics in 2016.

The UCL/KCL Social Values in Health Group

Building on a history of joint work on Social Values and Health Priority Setting, the UCL/KCL Social Values Group meets regularly in term time to explore values challenges in the design and prioritisation of health care services. Recent outputs include forthcoming papers in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Kennedy Institute Ethics Journal, an Advice Document to NICE on revising its Social Value Judgements, and various consultation responses. 

Social Values and Health Priority Setting Group

Most Friday lunchtimes during term time, the UCL/KCL Social Values Group meet to explore -- through case studies and papers -- how Social Values are, and ought to be, reflected in healthcare priority setting. Recent work has focussed on deliberative democracy and priority setting, the role of lobbying, as well as the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Public Health and Global Health Ethics

Our Public Health and Global health Ethics theme examines the nature, justification and limits of duties to protect health - both at a national level, and at a global level. Projects within this theme include health inequalities, the human right to health, the ethics of health promotion, communicable disease ethics, and clinical research as political advocacy. Here are some current highlights.

Building and Maintaining Public Trust in Early Warning Sensing Systems for Influenza

This exploratory project (running until April 2016) will provide an analysis of the key ethical and regulatory challenges for early warning sensing systems for influenza. The project will inform decisionmaking about the regulation and future development of the technologies produced by the i-sense project. Amongst the outputs of the project will be a proposed ethical and regulatory framework for such point-of-care tests in the UK. James Wilson (PI), Benedict Rumbold (researcher),  Rosanna Peeling (CoI), Rachel McKendry (CoI), Ingemar Cox (CoI).

Human Right to Health and Priority Setting in Healthcare

This project won a UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CHIRP) Early Career Researcher grant. It investigates a growing conflict, arising independently in a number of countries, between a legal recognition of each citizen’s ‘right  to health’ and the need to prioritise certain patient groups over others in the allocation of scarce healthcare resources. 

To date, debate on this topic has tended to polarise opinion, with well-entrenched positions in the policy world. However, there is the opportunity for conceptual and policy analysis to bring out the complexity of this problem while simultaneously offering means to alleviate it. The aim of the project, then, is to articulate the nature of the moral conflict between various rights, goals and duties in the allocation of health care resources, in the hope of thereby enabling a just resolution of the normative demands at play.  Thus far the project has seen the successful submission of a review article surveying existing conceptions of the moral right to health.


We examine ethical and legal issues in healthcare research and practice. Subthemes include research ethics, the role and limits of consent, mental capacity, neuroethics and the ethical implications of new technologies.

Our bioethics research includes a wide range of topics in what is traditionally known as bioethics, including research ethics, the role and limits of consent, the justifiability of paternalism, and mental capacity. Bioethics is essentially inter-disciplinary and, as such, draws on methods in philosophy, law and social science to answer practical and policy questions raised in the biosciences including medicine. The UCL/KCL Joint Bioethics Colloquium runs monthly during term time.

Projects include:

  • Use of Experimental Medicines for Ebola

Sapfo Lignou, Division of Medicine; Sandra Quinn, Maryland, USA; Alex John London, Carnegie Mellon, USA; Charles Weijer, Western Ontario, Canada.

  • Motivations for participating in health research

Katrine Bavnek, Heart Hospital; Dan Bromage, Institute of Cardiology; Natalie Bidad, Centre for Behavioural Medicine; Lindsay MacDonald, Centre for Behavioural Medicine.

  • Ethics of using medical treatments ‘off-label’

Gaetano Burriesci, Mechanical Engineering; Dan Bromage, Institute of Cardiology.

  • Adaptive licensing of new drugs

Megan Morgan, CASMI; Richard Barker, CASMI; Sarah Garner, NICE; Sian Rees, Oxford.

  • Ethics and patient adherence to medicines

Prince Saprai, Laws; Rob Horne, School of Pharmacy

  • Supporting health decisions with mentally non-competent adults

Felicity Smith, Pharmacy; Liz Jamieson, Pharmacy; Richard O’Neill Nottingham;  Jillian Craigie, King’s College

The History of Psychological Disciplines

We aim to foster a historical approach to the psychological disciplines, as well as provide opportunities for dialogue between historians and psychologists.