Xavier Symons


Research Associate / Lecturer
Convener, Bioethics & Healthcare Ethics research focus area

BA Advanced Hons, MA (Research) in Philosophy (University of Sydney), PhD in Philosophy (ACU)
Email: xavier.symons@nd.edu.au

  • Biography

    Dr. Xavier Symons is a Research Associate in the Institute for Ethics and Society at University of Notre Dame Australia in Sydney. He is the convener of the Bioethics and Healthcare Ethics research program.

    Xavier’s research interests range from ethical issues at the beginning and end of life, to conscientious objection in medicine and the role of religion in medical practice. His recently completed PhD thesis focused on the allocation of lifesaving healthcare resources.

    Xavier has taught bioethics for several years, and has worked with the Catholic healthcare sector on several projects related to ethics education. In 2019, Xavier was awarded a Fulbright Future Postdoctoral Scholarship, and he will be a scholar in residence at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics from September 2020 to March 2021.

  • Teaching areas

    • Political Philosophy
    • Bioethics
    • Catholic Social Teaching
  • Journal articles and proceedings

    • “Conscientious objection -- why the professional duty argument is unconvincing”. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (accepted 24th December 2019).
    • ‘‘Alive by default’: An exploration of Velleman’s unfair burdens argument against state sanctioned euthanasia’. Bioethics (published online first 2nd October 2019).
    • 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.
    • ‘Strengthening the ethical distinction between euthanasia, palliative opioid use and palliative sedation’. Journal of Medical Ethics 46(2020): 57-58.
    • ‘Pellegrino, MacIntyre, and the internal morality of clinical medicine’. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 40;3 (2019): 243-251.
    • ‘Rawls, Reasonableness and Conscientious Objection’. In Bligh Grant (ed.). Research in Ethical Issues in Organisations Volume 19: Ethics in a Fractured State. (Sydney: Emerald Publishing, 2018).
    • 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’ in 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)’, in The Medical Journal of Australia 207;9 (2017): 377-378.
    • ‘Does the doctrine of double effect apply to the prescription of barbiturates? Syme vs the Medical Board of Australia’, in The Journal of Medical Ethics 44;4 (2018): 266-269.
    • ‘Suffering, Euthanasia and Professional Expertise’, in Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics: 6 (1) 2016, published online at http://researchonline.nd.edu.au/solidarity/vol6/iss1/5.
    • ‘Two conceptions of conscience and the problem of conscientious objection’, in The Journal of Medical Ethics 43 (2017): 245-247.
    • ‘A response to Robert Zuradzki’s ‘preimplantation genetic diagnosis and rational choice under risk or uncertainty’’ in The Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (2014): 779.
    • ‘On the univocity of rationality: a response to Nigel Biggar’s ‘Why religion deserves a place in secular medicine’’ in The Journal of Medical Ethics, 41 (2015): 870-872.
  • Conference papers

    • ‘Pellegrino, MacIntyre and the internal morality of clinical medicine’. 5th Annual Pellegrino Conference: Pellegrino’s Philosophy of Medicine. Levy Center, Georgetown University, 2nd March 2018.
    • ‘Rawls, Reasonableness and conscientious objection’. 24th Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics(AAPAE) Annual Conference: Applied Ethics in a Fractured State. University of Technology Sydney, 22nd June 2017.
    • ‘Suffering, euthanasia and professional expertise’. AABHL Conference: Bioethics and Health Law at the Intersections. Rydges Hotel, Parkville, Melbourne. 24th November 2016.
    • ‘Pascal’s Le Coeur and Aristotle’s Phronesis’, presented at the International Ethics Conference Reasons and Virtues, Australian Catholic University, 22nd May 2015.
    • A Response to Daniel Garber’s ‘Spinoza and Hobbes on Human Nature’’, presented at the University of Sydney Philosophy Department’s ‘Hobbes, Spinoza and the Creation of the State’ workshop, August 25th 2014.
    • ‘Why Ockham Cuts Himself with his own Razor, Twice!’, presented at the Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference, The Australian National University, 8th of July 2014
    • ‘Aquinas’ argument from universals to the immateriality of the soul: a reply to Pasnau’s ‘content fallacy’ critique’, presented at ‘The Soul’ conference, St. Anne’s College, Oxford, 30th June 2013.
  • In the media

    • ‘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.
    • ‘Moralising companies are being asked to reset their business towards shareholders’. (Quotation) The Australian 24th September 2019.
    • ‘Religious freedom bill goes far, but not far enough’. Sydney Morning Herald 1 st September 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.
  • Awards

    • 2020 Fulbright Future Postdoctoral Scholar (Funded by the Kinghorn Foundation)
    • 2018 Annual Pellegrino Young Scholars Essay Prize (a prize administered by the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University).
    • 2018 Archbishop Mannix Travelling Scholarship (a scholarship given every three years by Newman College, University of Melbourne).
    • Visiting Scholar – Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, 2016
    • Lucy Firth Prize 2015
    • Lucy Firth Prize 2014