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Dr Ruth Horn

Ruth Horn

BA, MA, MA Res, PhD

Wellcome Trust Research Fellow

Ruth Horn is a University Research Lecturer of Oxford University. She holds an Ethics and Society Wellcome Trust Fellowship. In her current project she carries out comparative research on advance directives in England, France, and Germany; Ruth is also a researcher on the PAGE (Prenatal Assessment of Genomes and Exomes) Ethics Research Programme:

Ruth is a Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford, and an associate member of the research centre SPHERE, CNRS, University Paris Diderot.

She has studied Sociology in Germany (BA, University Ludwig-Maximilian, Munich) and France (MA, University Paris Diderot; MA Res and PhD, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris), and held research fellowships from the European Commission, the French National Health Care Insurance, and the French National Cancer League. 

Ruth’s research focuses on ethical questions raised by medical practices and new technologies at the beginning and end of life. She has a particular interest in understanding in which context (legal, cultural, socio-historical) these questions emerge in the public space, the way these questions are discussed a specific country (UK, France, Germany), and the practices the ethical questions refer to. Ruth has extensive experience in qualitative cross-national research involving documentary research (bio-/ethical, sociological, political and legal literature, and daily press) and ethnographic research (participant observations and interviews in hospital settings).

Ruth has examined dilemmas at the end of life, particularly regarding the tensions between patient autonomy and professional duties such as protecting vulnerable persons and maintaining life. Her PhD considered the euthanasia debate and underlying end-of-life practices in France and Germany. This study is published in a monograph: Le droit de mourir: Choisir sa fin de vie en France et en Allemagne, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013. Drawing on her doctoral work Ruth became interested in advance decisions to refuse treatment, their implementation, and ethical and practical problems associated with these directives in England, France and Germany. Her research compares the legislation and arguments regarding advance decisions employed in public and professional discourses and the current practices in the three countries studied. For this purpose, Ruth studied parliamentary reports, reports of National Ethics Committees, professional guidelines, legal texts and laws, and conducted ethnographic observations in clinical settings and semi-structured interviews with physicians in England, France and Germany.  The aim of her research is to contribute to a more nuanced and informed ethical analysis and policy making regarding the use of advance directives in each of the three countries but also in Europe (and beyond). Ruth secured two fellowships to conduct this research; Marie Curie IEF at the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol (ADVANCED-FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IEF-254825), and Wellcome Trust Ethics and Society Fellowship at ETHOX, University of Oxford.

Following Ruth’s interest in questions regarding the (re)definition of values in the face of new technology, as well as regarding the tensions between professional responsibility and individual choices, her attention has been drawn to prenatal genomic testing. She also works with Prof. Michael Parker on the Ethics Research Programme of the PAGE project providing ethics support and advice to the scientific partners on the project. The PAGE project aims to develop genomic approaches to prenatal testing that offer the potential for a better understanding of prenatal structural anomalies in the foetus and ultimately for improved patient care and more informed reproductive decision making. In addition to the scientific and clinical challenges of achieving this, the introduction of new reproductive technologies also presents a number of ethical problems. In order to identify and better understand the ethical problems arising from these new genomic approaches to prenatal testing, Ruth and Mike will undertake literature review and qualitative interviews exploring professionals’ views. These data will be complemented by data on patients’ experiences gathered by PAGE colleagues from Birmingham and London, and will be the basis for a practice-oriented ethics analysis. Such an analysis will allow developing appropriate policies and models of good ethical practice.


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Recent Publications

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