School of Law

Professor Richard Ashcroft, MA (Cantab) PhD (Cantab) FHEA, FSB


Professor of Bioethics

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 3940
Room Number: Mile End


Professor Richard Ashcroft teaches medical law and ethics at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in the Department of Law at Queen Mary University of London.

Previously he was Professor of Biomedical Ethics in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, and before that he worked at Imperial College London, Bristol University and Liverpool University.

Professor Ashcroft is Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health, funded by the Wellcome Trust, with partners at Kings College London and the London School of Economics. He is also working on the role of human rights theory, law and practice in bioethics policy, and on ethical challenges in public health. He has a longstanding interest in biomedical research ethics. Read about the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health [PDF 19KB].

Professor Ashcroft won a share of a £850,000 Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in Biomedical Ethics. Read about the Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health [PDF 19KB] or visit

He trained in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University, completing a PhD thesis on ethics in scientific research, and subsequently was a Research Fellow in Philosophy at Liverpool University, Lecturer in Ethics in Medicine at Bristol University, and Lecturer (eventually Reader and Head of the Ethics Unit) at Imperial College London.  Before joining the School of Law, he was Professor of Biomedical Ethics in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. In 2005 he held an Australian Bicentennial Fellowship, visiting the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He is an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, Bristol University and a fellow of the ETHOX Centre, Oxford University.

He is a Deputy Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, and serves on the editorial boards of a number of other journals, including Bioethics, Developing World Bioethics, Biosocieties, Health Care Analysis and Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.  He is a member of the Ethics and Policy Advisory Committee of the Medical Research Council, Director of the Appointing Authority for Phase I Ethics Committees and a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party on tobacco.

Undergraduate Teaching

  • LAW6029 Law and Medical Ethics

Postgraduate Teaching

School of Law

  • QLLM077 Medical Jurisprudence
  • QLLM078 Mental Health Law

School of Medicine and Dentistry


Publications since 2010

Journal Articles

  • Ashcroft RE. The Troubled Relationship between Bioethics and Human Rights. Law and Bioethics: Current Legal Issues vol. 11, Oxford University Press (Oxford) 2008
  • Priebe S, Sinclair J, Burton A, Marougka S, Larsen J, Firn M, Ashcroft RE. Acceptability of offering financial incentives to achieve medication adherence in patients with severe mental illness: A focus group study. Journal of Medical Ethics 2010; 36: 463-468
  • Ashcroft RE. Could human rights supersede bioethics? Human Rights Law Review 2010; 10: 639-660
  • Bogic M et al. Experience of human rights violations and subsequent mental disorders: A study following the war in the Balkans Social Science and Medicine 2010; 71: 2170-7
  • Ashcroft RE. Personal financial incentives in health promotion: Where do they fit in an ethic of autonomy? Health Expectations 2011; 14:191-200
  • Parke H, Ashcroft RE, Brown R, Marteau TM, Seale C. Financial incentives to encourage healthy behaviour: An analysis of UK media coverage Health Expectations 2011 doi: 10.1111/j.1369-7625.2011.00719.x
  • Promberger M, Brown RCH, Ashcroft RE, Marteau TM. Acceptability of financial incentives to improve health outcomes in UK and US samples. Journal of Medical Ethics 2011 doi:10.1136/jme.2010.039347
  • Sinclair JMA, Burton A, Ashcroft RE, Priebe S. Clinician and service user perceptions of implementing contingency management: A focus group study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.05.016
  • Greenhalgh T, Russell J, Ashcroft RE, Parsons W. Why national e-Health programs need dead philosophers: Wittgensteinian reflections on the reluctance of policymakers to learn from history. Milbank Quarterly 2011; 89: 533-563
  • Parke H, Ashcroft RE, Brown R, Marteau TM, Seale C. Financial incentives to encourage healthy behaviour: An analysis of UK media coverage Health Expectations (2011)

Book chapters in scholarly books

  • Tutton R, Smart A, Ashcroft RE, Martin P, Ellison GTH. “From self-identity to genotype: The past, present and future of ethnic categories in postgenomic science”. In Whitmarsh I, Jones DS (eds.) What’s the Use of Race? Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2010: ch.6, pp.125-146
  • Ashcroft RE, Dixon-Woods M. “The social forms and functions of bioethics in the United Kingdom” in Myser C. (ed.) Bioethics Around the Globe New York: Oxford UP, 2011: ch.5,  pp.76-92
  • Ashcroft RE. “Smoking, health and ethics” in Dawson A. (ed.) Public Health Ethics: Key Issues in Policy and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011: ch.5, pp.85-99

Editorials, Reviews etc.

  • Ashcroft RE. “Futures for Bioethics?” (Editorial introducing special issue on Bioethics Futures) Bioethics 2010; 24(5): ii
  • Ashcroft RE. Review of M Häyry, R Chadwick, V Àrnason, G Àrnason (eds.) The Ethics and Governance of Human Genetic Databases for European Law Journal 2010; 16:245-7
  • Ashcroft RE. Review of Barnbaum DR The Ethics of Autism in Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice 2011; 15(1):134-136
  • Ashcroft RE. Review of Ahmed S The Promise of Happiness in Textual Practice 2011; 25(2): 369-372


Professor Richard Ashcroft is interested in supervising PhDs in public health ethics, and in human rights and biomedicine.

In 2012 he is supervising:

  • Adrian Viens
  • Tendayi Bloom
  • Becky Brown
  • Ruth Saunders
  • Maria Sheppard