The ethics of existence

Professor Julian Savulescu arrives to teach at Melbourne Law School with a reputation as one of the world's greatest bioethicists.

Professor Julian Savulescu
Professor Julian Savulescu
Julian Savulescu has been described as one of the most renowned and provocative philosophers in the world today.

He is qualified in medicine, bioethics and analytic philosophy. He holds the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics and is Director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Centre for Neuroethics at Oxford and the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences.

Savulescu's main research interests are the ethics of the new biosciences: cloning, stem cells, genetics, artificial reproduction and neuroscience. He established and was Director of the Ethics of Genetics Unit at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne.

Professor Loane Skene approached Savulescu to teach in the graduate Health and Medical Law program.

"I spent six months in Oxford working with Julian last year at the James Martin 21st Century School, where he heads the program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences," she says.

Skene says Savulescu's views on issues like cloning, genetic screening and performance enhancing drugs are controversial, but he advances logical arguments for supporting each of them.

"He is often the first to speak about scientific possibilities most of us have never heard of – creating artificial life forms; improving the overall 'happiness' of a community by raising the IQ levels of the lowest percentile; and introducing new capacities into people by transplanting genes from other species, such as people with sonar like bats.

"You may be affronted by Julian's views, but you will never be bored."

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 1, March 2009.