Professor Heather Draper PhD, MA(thesis), BA(Hons)

Professor of Biomedical Ethics

School of Health and Population Sciences

Contact details

Medicine, Ethics, Society and History (MESH)
90 Vincent Drive
School of Health and Population Sciences
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Heather has an international reputation as a bioethicist with over 100 research papers on a wide range of issues in bioethics in peer reviewed journals and edited collections.

Heather strives to bridge the gap between the distinctive research cultures of medicine and applied philosophy. She is an enthusiastic supporter of inter- and multi- disciplinary research. She has introduced empirical methods into her research, blending the results of data collection with ethical analysis in a methodology increasingly referred to empirical bioethics. She an experienced PI and PhD supervisor and has received research funding from National Institute for Health Research (Research for Patient Benefit), European Union (FP7), EPSRC, ESRC and the AHRC. She is part of several different research teams in the UK and across Europe.

Heather is also active in supporting clinical ethics serving on national and local bodies advising on ethical issues in clinical practice and policy. She is currently ethics advisory on two social robotics projects TERESA and ehcoBUTLER.


  • PhD Philosophy 1986
  • MA(thesis) Philosophy 1983
  • BA(Hons) Theology 1982


Heather studied Theology before completing her PhD in Philosophy at the University of Manchester. During and after her doctoral studies she worked as a tutor for the Open University. In 1989 she took up a post as Lecturer in Social Ethics at S Martin’s College in Lancaster, and moved to the Medical School at Liverpool University in 1991 as Lecturer in Healthcare Ethics. She joined the University of Birmingham in 1994 and was promoted to Chair of Biomedical Ethics in 2010. 

As a result of her research activities, Heather has been invited to serve on several national policy bodies (UK Donation Committee, Human Genetics Commission (co opted), Unrelated Live Transplantation Regulatory Authority) as well as being active in clinical and research ethics locally.

Heather is currently the ethics consultant for the Royal Centre of Defence Medicine, and leading an ESRC funded project exploring the ethical challenges face by Defence Medical Service personnel who deployed to Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. She was actively involved in the pandemic influenza planning of two local hospitals and appointed as a consultant on ethics to the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority during the 2009 swine ‘flu pandemic. This appointment was a direct result of her work in pandemic ethics in 2008-9. She is Vice Chair of the COST Action Disaster Bioethics.


Biomedical Science BSc (PoSH)

  • Research Ethics
  • Empirical Bioethics
  • Research Methods for Bioethics
  • Biomedical Ethics and Law
  • Internal Ethics Review Committee (Chair)
  • GEC - ethics and law expert

Medicine and Surgery MBChB - ethics and law in years 1,2,3,5

Clinical Primary and Community Care MSc/PG Diploma/PG Certificate - Introduction to Biomedical Ethics

Postgraduate supervision

Heather is interested in supervising doctoral research students in any area of bioethics (employing conventional philosophical research methods or qualitative methods, or a combination of both), and in particular in on the ethical aspects of human reproduction and parenting, organ and tissue donation, military medical ethics, social robotics/care robots and telecare or telehealth.

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Heather using the contact details above, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email: or call +44 (0)121 414 5005.

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.   


Research Themes

Bioethics and in particular ethics issues in relation to tissue and organs transplantation and organ replacement therapies, social robotics, military medical ethics, public health ethics, research ethics and human reproduction and parenting.

Research Activity

Transplantation and organ replacement therapies: research on the ethics of the use of split livers funded by UHB Charities and conditional and directed donation funded by AHRC. Currently researching the recruitment of donors using social media funded by the ESRC and the ethics of unspecified kidney donation and the access to kidney transplantation on two different projects funded by the NIHR

Military medical ethics: currently research the ethical challenges faced by deployed medical military personnel during the Ebola outbreak (funded by ESRC) and recording and evaluating the ethical issues managed by medical personnel during the conflict in Afghanistan (funded by DMS RSG).Previous work evaluated the use of the four quadrant approach ethical decision-making in the role 3 unit in Camp Bastion (funded by RCDM).  

Research ethics: work on patient reported outcomes (NIHR and NSPC) and how better to inform research participants (MRC)

Human reproduction and parenting: philosophical research on the meaning of parenthood and how this gives rise to parental responsibilities; parental separation (AHRC); grandparents’ responsibilities; gamete donation (AHRC)

Social robots and ethics: ethical framework to support the development of robots to support independent living (ACCOMPANY, FP7); consultant on TERESA and ehcoBUTLER

Other activities

Current professional service:

  • UK Donation Ethics Committee 2010 – 2016
  • Donation Committee, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust 2008 –
  • Organ Donation Taskforce Education Group, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust 2008 –
  • Advisory Committee on Ethics to the Fertility Clinic, Women's Hospital Trust, Birmingham 1997 -
  • Clinical Ethics Committee, Birmingham Children’s Hospital 2003 -
  • Clinical Ethics Committee, Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull NHS Trust 2003 -

Previous national professional service:

  • Co-convener Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 9th International Congress 2010-2012
  • NHS Blood and Transplant / British Transplant Society working party on consent 2010
  • Human Genetics Commission co-opted 2000-2003 & 2003 – 2005
  • Society of Applied Philosophy, Executive 2000-2005
  • Unrelated Live Transplantation Regulatory Authority (ULTRA) 1998 - 2003


Moorlock G., Neuberger J., Bramhall .S and Draper H. An empirically informed analysis of the ethical issues surrounding split liver transplantation in the United Kingdom. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics ( in press)

Draper, H., Sorell, T., Bedaf, S., Syrdal, D.S., Gutierrez-Ruiz, C, Duclos, A., Amirabdollahian, F. Ethical Dimensions of Human-Robot Interactions in the Care of Older People: Insights from 21 Focus Groups Convened in UK, France and the Netherlands. In: Beetz, M.,Johnston, B., Williams, M.-A. (eds.) ICSR. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 8755, pp. 138–147. Springer, Heidelberg (2014)

Herington, J., Dawson,  A. and Draper, H. Obesity, liberty and public health emergencies. Hastings Center Report 2014 44 (6): 26-35

Sorell, T., Draper, H. (corresponding author) Robot carers, ethics and older people. Ethics and Information Technology 2014; 16: 183-195 DOI: 10.1007/s10676-014-9344-7 (March 27)

Draper H, Grandparents' entitlements and obligations Bioethics 2013 27(6): 309-316 (published online 30th May:  doi:10.1111/bioe.12028)

Moorlock, G., Ives J., and Draper, H.   Altruism in Organ Donation - An Unnecessary Requirement? Journal of Medical Ethics  28th March 2013 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100528

Draper, H., Sorell, T. Telecare, remote monitoring and care. Bioethics 2013 27(7): 365-372 (first published online 2012 16th April doi:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2012.01961.x

Draper, H., Sorell, T., Ives, J., Damery, S., Greenfield, S., Parry, J., Petts J., Wilson, S. (2010) Non-professional health care workers and ethical obligations to work during pandemic influenza. Public Health Ethics, 3(1) 23-34


Medical ethics, especially reproductive technologies (assisted conception, gamete donation, IVF surrogacy, designer babies); paternity issues (e.g. misattributed paternity, CSA decisions, father's rights, absent parents); organ and tissue donation

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