Leading Bioethicist: Bonnie Steinbock

Tang Chun-I Visiting Professor, Department of Philosophy, 1-31 March 2015

Professor Bonnie Steinbock is a leading bioethicist in the world. We are therefore fortunate to have her at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for the month of March, 2015.  She will give the following in this month:

(in chronological order)

1. One-credit Graduate Course: “Philosophical, Ethical and Policy Issues at the End of Life”​

Date: 6 - 27 March 2015 (every Friday in March)
Time: 2:30 – 5:15 p.m. (with in-between breaks)
Venue: Room 204, Lee Shau Kee Building, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (subject to change)
Remark: Although the course is primarily for the graduate students of Department of Philosophy, others who are interested are also welcome to attend - subject to availability of seats.


“We begin with the philosophical, ethical and practical implications of different definitions of death, understood as a biological event or process. Next, we consider the implications of different theories of personal identity for determining when death has occurred. The next topic is whether there is a right to die, and a right to be assisted in dying. Finally, we will consider whether individuals should be able to request assistance in dying to avoid severe dementia via advance directives (ADs). This raises the question of precedent autonomy: whether the wishes of the competent individual should determine what is done to the no‐longer‐competent person.”

Topics to be covered include: the definition of death, the implications of different conceptions of personal identity for the determination of death, assisted death, and precedent autonomy.

For more information: Course Syllabus

2. Public Lecture: “Advance Directives, Dementia, and Physician-Assisted Death”

Date: 9 March 2015 (Monday)
Time: 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Venue: C.K. Tse Room, Chung Chi Library, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Assisted death, whether euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, is available in some countries and in a few states in the U.S. In most places, the eligibility requirements include terminal illness, defined as having no more than six months to live, and contemporary competence. This enables, for example, someone who is dying of cancer to avoid suffering at the end of life. But many people fear living into dementia for years and perhaps decades more than they fear a few months of suffering. The talk addresses the arguments and problems in allowing people while competent to write advance directives asking for assistance in dying once they begin the decline into dementia.

3. Paper to be presented at the Bioethics Symposium (jointly organized by CUHK Centre for Bioethics and Department of Philosophy)

Topic: "Opting for Twins in IVF: What Does Procreative Responsibility Require?"

Date: 14 March 2015 (Saturday)
Time: 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Venue: (Changed) Swire Hall 1, LG/F, Fung King Hey Building, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Details and registration:

4. Departmental Seminar: “Procreative Liberty, Procreative Responsibility, and the Non-Identity Problem”

Date: 23 March 2015 (Monday)
Time: 4:30 - 6:30p.m.
Venue: Room 220, Fung King Hey Building, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


A common objection to new reproductive technologies or arrangements is the risk of harm they pose to offspring. Sometimes the issue is whether the risk of harm is real and well substantiated. However, it has been argued (for example, by John Robertson) that concern for the well-being of offspring can rarely, if ever, justify limiting procreative liberty, because it is often the case that, but for the technology or arrangement, the child would never have been born at all. I reject the claim that birth cannot be “unfair to the child” so long as the child is glad to have been born, and offer a decent minimum standard for procreative responsibility. Moreover, even when this standard is met, procreation can be irresponsible, in my view, if it is possible to have a different child without the harmful condition.

For further information, please visit


Department of Philosophy
Tel.: (852) 3943 8524