Bioethics & Healthcare Ethics (BHE)

Within the field of Applied and Professional Ethics, the IES has dedicated research expertise in Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Ethics Education in healthcare contexts. Our research excellence in these fields is central to the work of Notre Dame as a Catholic University that trains students for the medical and nursing professions.

Institute researchers are presently investigators on a number of grants and have worked with industry partners in the healthcare sector on research projects and consultancy reports. The Institute has an ongoing partnership with St Vincent’s Health Network Australia, collaborating with hospital staff on projects over a number of years.

In recent years, BHE has led projects in the field of bioethics, including the ethical issues at the beginning and end of life, genomics, and conscientious objection in healthcare.

IES researchers have been published in leading journals such as The Medical Journal of Australia, Palliative Medicine, The Journal of Medical Ethics and The Journal of Religion and Health.

BHE also has an active research interests in the ethics of palliative care and in the intersections between spirituality and health, which traverses the fields of ethics and the philosophy of medicine. BHE researchers are working on topics including existential distress at the end of life, suffering and meaning, spiritual care, and how best to meet the pastoral care needs of patients at all stages of illness.



New Spiritual Care Training Program coming soon
The University of Notre Dame Australia and St Vincent’s Health Australia have collaborated to create a research program which aims to develop a culturally relevant spiritual care training program for Australian healthcare professionals. This project is led by Dr Kate Jones with A/Prof Megan Best and Mr Matthew Kearney of St Vincent’s Health Network, Sydney. The new program is based on empirical research and the views of Australian experts. Contact Dr Kate Jones for details.

Impact of COVID-19 on Chaplaincy
Dr Kate Jones and A/Prof Megan Best have investigated the impact of COVID-19 from the perspective of Australian hospital chaplains. Their paper was published in the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy.

Unreliable Euthanasia Polls
A/Prof Megan Best and colleagues have investigated the impact of the wording of euthanasia polls on the responses given. Results suggest that public support for euthanasia is not as high as is often reported. The article was published in the Internal Medicine Journal.

Experience of Gender Incongruity
A/Prof Megan Best recently co-wrote a paper exploring the interaction between Christian faith and gender incongruence.  It was published in the Journal of Religion and Health.

Our Researchers' Grants and Institutional Partnerships

  • The University of Notre Dame and Royal Rehab, Industry-linked Team-based PhD Scholarship, “Enhancing resilience after spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury”. 2022-2024 ($90,000)
  • The University of Notre Dame and St Vincents Health Australia, Industry-linked Team-based Early Career Researcher Fellowship, “Developing Spiritual Care Training for Hospital Staff”. 2020-2022 ($555,000)
  • IHIF Award for “Identifying Aboriginal Pastoral and spiritual care needs”. ($200,000)
  • Cancer Institute New South Wales Early Career Researcher Fellowship  Grant.  “Overcoming psychosocial and ethical issues in cancer genomics: Translating test results into behavioural change”. 2017-2020 ($564,666)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant “Cancer genomics; Psychosocial, behavioural and ethical issues and outcomes, two inter-related longitudinal studies”. 2017-2020 ($506,654)


  • 2020/2021

    • Bioethics and Health Ethics Annual Lecture, delivered by Professor David A Jones (Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford UK). “Voluntary Assisted Dying and Suicide Prevention,” 21 September 2021.
    • Bioethics and Health Ethics Annual Lecture, delivered by Professor Scott Kim (National Institutes of Health, USA). “Learning from a pandemic: bioethics and the care of the vulnerable,” 29 October 2020.
  • 2019

  • 2016/2018

    • Workshop: “The spiritual dimensions of palliative care”, delivered by Prof Douglas Bridge 3-4 November 2018.
    • “Euthanasia and Palliative Care: Medical and Ethical Perspectives” with Professor Margaret Somerville and Associate Professor Natasha Michael. Presented by the Institute for Ethics & Society in partnership with Catholic Health Australia. 29 August 2016.

Postgraduate Research

We welcome inquiries regarding postgraduate supervision from prospective M.Phil or PhD students interested in working within the IES’s BHE research focus area.

  • Dr Megan Best

    Dr Megan Best welcomes research students in the following areas:

    • Spirituality in healthcare
    • Existential suffering
    • Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide
    • Whole person care
    • Ethics at the end of life
  • Dr Kate Jones

    Dr Kate Jones welcomes research students in the following areas:

    • Spirituality in healthcare
    • Strengths based interventions in rehabilitation after traumatic injury
    • Healthcare training in whole person care