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Researcher profile: Hope Davidson

Hope Davidson, PhD candidate, School of Law, University of Limerick

I am a former solicitor and current PhD candidate in the School of Law. My main research interests are in medical law and ethics, mental health law and research ethics. I have a BA in History from TCD, and qualified as a solicitor in 1996. I practiced in Dublin as a solicitor defending claims against hospitals in public and employer liability and clinical negligence. I trained as a Mediator in 2009 and sat for a number of years on the Mental Health Tribunals. I completed a Masters in Health and Care Law in UCC in 2014; my minor thesis was on the reform of the law in relation to voluntary psychiatric patients.

I am continuing my research in the area of healthcare decision-making at the University of Limerick under the supervision of Dr Eimear Spain and Jennifer Schweppe. My PhD thesis is entitled ‘Decision-making in dementia care: autonomy, capacity and the doctrine of informed consent.’ This particular topic was interesting because, while the area of decision-making for ‘vulnerable adults’ is well-researched in terms of intellectual disability and mental health, dementia is not and it is an area which really needs dedicated analysis. Dementia is especially interesting because it enables a discussion across a spectrum of capabilities, from early stage dementia to end-of-life care. Dedicated analysis has therefore the potential to make a significant contribution to the broader debate on decision-making for ‘vulnerable adults’. Dementia research follows on naturally for me from my research in mental health law, as many of the challenges in terms of restrictions on liberty and consent to medical treatment arise in both spheres. My research is inter-disciplinary in so far as there is a strong socio-legal focus to the proposals I am making. I have not yet published my research in this particular area, although I have given a number of conference papers on it, most notably to the Alzheimer’s Europe 25th Annual Conference in Ljubljana and the Centre for Ageing Research and Development Ireland in Dublin. I will be presenting it at the Inaugural United Kingdom Mental Disability Law Conference in Nottingham in June and at the Society of Legal Scholars in Oxford in September and plan to publish shortly thereafter.

I have co-authored a piece on children and consent to medical treatment with Jennifer Schweppe entitled ‘Time for legislative clarity on consent to medical treatment? Children, young people and the ‘mature minor’, (2015) Medico-legal Journal of Ireland 21(2) 65. I also have an article coming in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law on voluntary psychiatric patients and have co-authored a chapter on research ethics in the forthcoming Legal Research Methods: Principles and Practicalities (Dublin, Clarus Press, 2016) Cahillane, L and Schweppe J (Eds).

I tutor legal systems and methods, nursing law, medical law, constitutional law and torts and have designed and taught a postgraduate course on research ethics. I am the postgraduate representative on the AHSS Ethics Committee and the doctoral representative on the Postgraduate Course Board. I have a Research Scholarship from the School of Law and an AHSS fee waiver for 2015-2016. I won the Dean’s Award for ‘Best Paper’ at the AHSS Postgraduate Conference in 2015 and a PhD Scholarship to the IALT Annual Conference in 2015.




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