IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor Catherine Mills, Monash University, Australia

Catherine Mills BMVP

Social and ethical aspects of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

6 - 20 June 2017

Dr Mills is an Associate Professor of Bioethics, in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University. Her current research explores issues at the intersection of reproductive ethics, feminist philosophy and critical disability studies. She is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, as well as three monographs: The Philosophy of Agamben (2008), Futures of Reproduction: Bioethics and Biopolitics (2011), and Biopolitics (Forthcoming, 2017).  In 2012, she was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, to undertake a project on responsibility in human reproduction and the moral significance of the maternal-fetal bond, particularly in regards to prenatal testing, in-utero therapy, and fetal harm. This will lead to a book on maternal responsibility and fetal harm. In 2016, she and co-researchers were awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant, to undertake research on the ethical and legal issues raised by technologies that permit inheritable genetic modifications to the human genome, such as mitochondrial replacement therapy and CRISPR-Cas9.

This project focuses on the social and ethical aspects of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD is a broad term that encompasses preventable birth anomalies caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Growing awareness of the teratogenic effect of alcohol in pregnancy has led to many countries launching public health campaigns to deter women from drinking alcohol while pregnant. Yet, FASD remains one of the most common forms of preventable birth defect. FASD has life-long implications life opportunities, education and parenting and is a matter of significant concern for many parental carers, social work practitioners, the criminal justice system and educationalists.

While FASD has been a major concern in public health, criminology, epidemiology and other disciplines, there is very little work in bioethics and related disciplines such as philosophy of medicine that directly addresses FASD. This project will address this lacuna by bringing new conceptual frameworks to the field, and developing an innovative research methodology that ties together the sociological, phenomenological and ethical components of FASD. This project will be undertaken by an interdisciplinary research group that brings together leading scholars in bioethics, philosophy of medicine and sociology of health and medicine. It aims to drive research into the social and ethical aspects of FASD, including the public health regulation of maternal behaviour associated with alcohol consumption, the biopolitics of FASD diagnosis, and the lived experience of FASD, including issues pertaining to adoptive parenting and foster care, special needs education and social work assessment.

During her stay in Bristol, Dr Mills will be hosted by Professor Havi Carel (Philosophy).

While at Bristol, Dr Mills will engage in a number of events, including a workshop on FASD, a public engagement event, a masterclass for postgraduate and early career researchers and a departmental research seminar, details to be posted shortly.

Seeing, Feeling, Doing: Obstetric ultrasound, abortion and the politics of empathy
followed by a 'women in philosophy' session from 2.30 in the philosophy library. All welcome to both!