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Researcher Profile: Aoife Finnerty

“I am a current PhD student in the School of Law and my research is being supervised by Eoin Quill. I graduated with an LLB in Law and European Studies (German & Politics) from UL in 2009 and with a Master of Arts in Medical Ethics and Law from the Centre of Medical Law & Ethics in King’s College London in 2013. I currently tutor for the School of Law and during Academic Year 2015-16, I taught Tort Law, Child Law and Family Law.

“I am currently researching advance decision making in the context of medical treatment in Ireland, with particular focus on the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. An ‘Advance Directive’ is a refusal of treatment issued by the patient in advance of (s)he losing the capacity to do so; for example, prior to undergoing surgery, an advance directive may specify that the patient does not want to receive artificial ventilation in the event of lapsing into a coma. This would be specified in advance, as if the patient were to lapse into a coma, (s)he would be incapable of  refusing ventilation at that point.

“As part of my research, I am also conducting a review of the current legal positions on Advance Directives in England & Wales, the Netherlands and New York State. I chose this area of law for a number of reasons; firstly, I find areas of law which apply to individuals and people, as opposed to entities or corporations, infinitely more interesting. Secondly, I thoroughly enjoyed studying medical law and bioethics during masters study and I genuinely feel that it is an area, in which I would like to have a career in the future. Thirdly, the issue of advance decision making is relevant and topical, particularly in light of the cases like that of the pregnant woman on life support for three weeks in Beaumont Hospital in December 2015 and because the legislation in this area is at bill stage.

“My research has started with an examination of valid informed consent and capacity in the jurisdictions listed above and next moves to exploring the concept of personal autonomy as an ethical basis for the right to refuse medical care. As my research progresses, I will look at the legal and ethical considerations of end of life decision making and follow the progress of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill towards enactment.

“My research interests include medical law, reproductive law, law at the end of life, child law and medical ethics and my papers to date have focused on one or more of these areas. Thus far, I have presented at the International Graduate Legal Research Conference 2016 in London and the University College London Postgraduate and Early Careers Conference 2016 on postpartum refusal of medical treatment and the challenges faced by foreign national women within the Irish maternity services.

“At undergraduate and postgraduate level, I produced papers on the rights of a pregnant Jehovah’s Witness to refuse a blood transfusion in Ireland and examined the legal and ethical implications of s. 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act in the United Kingdom i.e. selective abortion of a disabled foetus. I am currently completing a paper on the ability of adolescents or ‘mature minors’ to refuse medical treatment in Ireland and England & Wales, a topic which I hope to present at a conference later this year.”

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