John Keown, D.Phil., Ph.D.
Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics
Having graduated in law from Cambridge, John Keown took a doctorate at Oxford. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales, winning the Prize for Advocacy. He soon became the first holder of a newly-created lectureship in the law and ethics of medicine at Cambridge, where he was elected to a Fellowship at Queens' College and, later, a Senior Research Fellowship at Churchill College.
Professor Keown's research has been cited by distinguished bodies worldwide, including the United States Supreme Court, the Law Lords, the House of Commons, the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, and the Australian Senate, before which he was invited to testify. He has served as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association and has been regularly consulted, not least by politicians and the media, on legal and ethical aspects of medicine.
He has also developed an interest in the ethics of war. His paper in the Journal of Catholic Social Thought was the first to consider whether America's War for Independence satisfied the criteria laid down by the 'just war' tradition. (See link on right.)
He has also written a play based on one of the classic cases in bioethics: the trial of Dr. Leonard Arthur for the attempted murder of a newborn baby with Down's syndrome. Professor Keown has published widely in the law and ethics of medicine, specializing on issues at the beginning and end of life.
Reason, Morality and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis (Oxford University Press, 2013) honors the prodigious scholarly output of John Finnis, Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford, and Biolchini Family Professor of Law at Notre Dame. John Finnis is one of world's leading authorities in legal, moral and political philosophy, and constitutional law, but is also an expert on medical law, theology and Shakespeare. This volume, co-edited by John Keown and Robert P George, comprises 27 essays by eminent academics in these disciplines (including Germain Grisez, John Haldane, Sir Anthony Kenny, Joseph Raz, and Jeremy Waldron) and a book-length response to their essays by the honoree. The volume constitutes a signal contribution to our understanding of the "new classical natural law" theory, and much more.
The Law and Ethics of Medicine: Essays on the Inviolability of Human Life (Oxford University Press, 2012) provides a unique, clear guide to a foundational principle of medical law worldwide—the inviolability of human life—and considers the principle's continuing relevance to the law governing medical practice at the beginning and end of life, especially in England. The book, which is aimed primarily at academic lawyers, practising lawyers, and judges, argues that the principle has been misunderstood in the legal academy, at the Bar, on the Bench, and beyond.
Debating Euthanasia (Hart, 2011) is a book in the Debating Law series published by Hart in which authors with different viewpoints write independent contributions on a particular topic. In the first half of this book, Professor Emily Jackson, a professor of medical law at the LSE, puts her case for the decriminalisation of voluntary euthanasia. In the second half, John Keown considers the case for decriminalisation which has been put forward by its advocates (including Professor Jackson in her previous writings) and argues against decriminalisation. This accessible book should appeal to anyone interested in an overview of the current debate on this important and topical issue.
Considering Physician-Assisted Suicide (2006), a booklet offering a sustained analysis of a Bill seeking to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide in England, drew the following praise from Lord Brennan QC: "The combination of deep learning and the highest intellectual discipline make this an indispensable source for all." Download the full text pdf.
Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2002) was described in The Tablet as "the best book in print on the case against the legalization of euthanasia," in the Hastings Center Report as "a provocative and important contribution to the ethical and public policy issues involved in end-of-life care," and by the Bulletin of Medical Ethics as a "veritable tour de force" offering "a comprehensive ethical and legal analysis of the main arguments from both sides of the debate."
Professor Alexander Capron wrote: "All thoughtful citizens—whatever their views on legalizing assistance for suicide and active euthanasia—need to read this book, which is at once factually meticulous, analytically rigorous, and absolutely engaging."
Euthanasia Examined (Cambridge University Press, 1995) was rated by Daniel Callahan as "an exceedingly valuable resource," by the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians as "a must" for doctors dealing with dying patients, and by the Times Literary Supplement as "by far the best guide" to the euthanasia debate.
Abortion, Doctors and the Law (Cambridge University Press, 1988) was described in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine as "a much needed authoritative guide to the history of the law on abortion and an excellent case study in the social history of medicine," in the Annals of Science as "a clear and illuminating work of scholarship and distinction" and in Legal Studies as "excellent and timely ... thorough and dispassionate'.