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Otago University appoints next Bioethics Centre Director


Monday 3 September 2012 3:25pm

John McMillan
Dr John McMillan

The University of Otago has selected a leading medical ethicist as the next Director of its Bioethics Centre. Dr John McMillan, an Otago graduate currently at Australia’s Flinders University, will take up the Directorship and appointment as Professor of Bioethics in February.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is delighted that Dr McMillan, who was selected after an international search, is returning to the University to take up the position.

“John McMillan is a leading researcher and teacher in his field and has made significant contributions to policy development and advice on pressing ethical issues in healthcare,” Professor Hayne says.

After completing an Otago BA (Hons) in 1994 and PhD in 1998, Dr McMillan left an assistant lecturer position at the Otago Bioethics Centre to take up a Junior Research Fellowship at University College, Oxford. In 2002 he was appointed as University Lecturer at Cambridge University, and in 2004 joined the University of Hull York Medical School and Philosophy Department as a Senior Lecturer. Since 2009 he has been an Associate Professor in Ethics, Law and Professionalism at the Flinders School of Medicine.

Among Dr McMillan’s research interests are prioritising health care, research ethics, the philosophy and ethics of mental health, and methodology in applied ethics. His wide teaching experience includes designing and delivering ethics courses for medical and philosophy students at five universities.

While Dr McMillan’s longstanding interests are in the philosophy of psychiatry and mental health ethics, he has published on a broad range of topics. He recently co-authored Responsibility and Psychopathy (2010), a work exploring the moral responsibility of psychopaths and engaging with problems at the interface of law, psychiatry, and philosophy. He is currently co-authoring a book for Oxford University Press titled The Methods of Bioethics: an essay in meta-bioethics.

Dr McMillan was also an editor of the second edition of The Principles of Health Care Ethics (2007), a highly comprehensive standard text in its field.

Alongside his extensive research and teaching activities, Dr McMillan has served on many research and clinical ethics committees and high profile policy and advisory groups in both the UK and Australia. This includes being a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Dementia Working Party which published the report ‘Dementia: ethical issues’ in 2009. More recently he has served as the deputy chair of the South Australian Ethics Health Advisory Council.

His current research projects include a study of how those who facilitate access to reproductive technologies interpret the pre-conception welfare tests required by legislation in this area. Along with collaborators in law and mental health, he is also investigating the extent to which Community Treatment Orders enable effective care planning for those with mental illnesses.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences) Professor Peter Crampton warmly welcomed Dr McMillan’s appointment.

“John McMillan is an excellent choice to lead the activities of the Otago Bioethics Centre, which is already internationally recognised for its contributions in teaching, research, consultancy and public education,” Professor Crampton says.

As someone who grew up in Dunedin, Dr McMillan says he is delighted to return home to the city and to the University where his father, Dr Bruce McMillan, was a Senior Lecturer in Education.

“This role provides a great opportunity to contribute to one of the preeminent centres in my field and the university at which I was educated. One of my main aims will be to build on the existing relationships that the Bioethics Centre already enjoys within the University and broader community to foster excellence in teaching and policy-relevant research,” Dr McMillan says.

For more information, please contact

Professor Peter Crampton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences)
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 7413

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