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Personal profile

Research interests

Giles Birchley is an experienced children's intensive care nurse working in the University of Bristol's multidisciplinary Centre for Ethics in Medicine. He was awarded his doctorate in 2015, for a doctoral project that combined social science and philosophical methods to investigate how decisions are/ought to be made in the best interests of critically ill infants - with a focus on those where there is a question of whether treatment or non-treatment is best. This involved interviewing key decision makers in practice (parents, doctors, nurses and clinical ethics committee members) about their values and experiences, and comparing their responses to established theory and his own developing moral judgements.

Giles' post-doctoral work extends these research interests. His primary research interest is in the principles and processes governing the way decisions are made for those who are considered unable to make decisions for themselves. His work includes examining the concept of 'reduced agency' as a factor in end-of-life decision-making for patients in extreme old age, end stage dementia or with traumatic brain injury and; researching the way that bioethical concepts are used in the best interests standard to make decisions about patients in minimally conscious states. He has a broadening interest in other fields of ethics including those related to new 'smart' technologies and surgery and innovation. Of the latter, he has a role on a wider project run by the Centre for Surgical research exploring ethical issues in the safe translation of surgical innovation.

From September 2018, Giles is working on a major project examining the concept of best interests across the life course. Funded by a prestigious Wellcome Trust collaborative award BAlancing Best interests in health care, Ethics and Law (BABEL) will be exploring the way the best interests standard – and its mooted alternatives – is used and understood in legal and medical decisions. The project aims to provide a venue for international discussion that can capitalise on the position of bioethics as a forum for the diverse experiences and opinions of patients, clinicians, lawyers, philosophers, theologians and social scientists. BABEL asks which factors and values should be considered when we use the best interests standard, who should be involved, and indeed whether the best interests standard is ultimately a sustainable approach.

When he's not working, Giles spends his time parenting, dog walking, cooking and doing some (usually futile) vegetable gardening.

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Health and Wellbeing


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