Medical Humanities and Bioethics

Health care practices and biotechnologies that evoke ethical, philosophical, and sociocultural questions; the role of illness and pain for perception and lived experience of time, space, and agency; and a dialogue between the third-person perspective of the neurosciences and phenomenological philosophical inquiries of subjectivity and lived experience.

The above are three examples of research areas that I work with within medical humanities and bioethics. Medical humanities is an interdisciplinary research field at the intersection between the humanities, the (qualitative) social sciences, and medicine. Within the field of medical humanities, researchers study, among other things, conditions for human existence in the light of and in encounters with biomedicine and healthcare. Broadly speaking, bioethics addresses ethical questions evoked within the life sciences.
My research exemplifies medical humanities and bioethics. It examines ethical, philosophical, and socio-cultural aspects of the development and use of medical technologies, health care practices, and knowledge production, often from phenomenological philosophical, empirically philosophical, and feminist theoretical perspectives. I also often engage with work within medical sociology, and science and technology studies, and I find it fruitful to combine empirical research with philosophical analysis. As a result, much of my research has an interdisciplinary character, even though its primary foci are philosophy of medicine and bioethics.

One of my professional roles is director of the Centre for Medical Humanities and Bioethics. The objectives of the centre are to promote and enable research, a research seminar, teaching, and collaboration. A further objective is to function as a platform for meetings between researchers from different disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds, and between researchers, healthcare personnel and other societal actors. I see collaboration – interdisciplinary and with different societal actors – as interesting, productive, and necessary to address complex questions and future challenges. I am also engaged in the Body, Knowledge, Subjectivity (P6) seminar series, which predominantly attracts researchers from two divisions at the Department of Thematic Studies: Technology and Social Change (Tema T) and Gender Studies (Tema G), as well as in the Interdisciplinary Phenomenology research node. This node is a cross-department collaboration that gathers colleagues at LiU who work with or have an interest in phenomenological philosophy.

Research projects

The project Biomedicine, Clinical Knowledge, and the Humanities in Collaboration: A Novel Epistemology for Radically Interdisciplinary Health Research and Policy-Work on Post-Covid-19 Syndrome (funded by the Swedish Research Council, 2022-2027). This project investigates post-Covid as an urgent health challenge that requires interdisciplinary analyses of its meanings, expressions, implications, and co-constituting factors. It combines clinical rehabilitation medicine, neuroscientific, socio-political, philosophical, ethical, and patient perspectives, and comprises five subprojects. The project team consists of colleagues at Linköping University and Linköping University Hospital, and of international partners in the UK, the USA, and France.

The project A Feminist Approach to Medical Screening (funded by the Swedish Research Council; Consolidator Grant, 2017-2022). Within this project, colleagues and I study the ethical, existential and sociocultural aspects of early testing and screening for cognitive impairment and/or dementia, preconception carrier screening in the Netherlands. We also analyse a health questionnaire sent out to teenagers in Swedish schools, and the views and experiences of teenagers when completing this questionnaire. The project has also resulted in a norm-critical artefact that help promote reflection on what health questionnaires can mean and help do, for the subjects asked to fill them in. Further, the project explores analytic gains and remaining tensions when feminist (and other) phenomenology and insights from STS are brought into dialogue with each other in analysis of subjectivity, embodiment, and normativity. This combination of perspectives is also central to the forthcoming edited volume Subjectivity, embodiment, agency – At the intersection of feminist phenomenology and feminist STS (ed. Kristin Zeiler and Lisa Folkmarson Käll).

In another project, Ontological security in a transforming world (a project within the Seed Box research program, funded by Mistra and Formas, to be ended in 2022), some other colleagues and I explore lived experiences of climate change when these affect one’s own life and health. We combine this analysis with investigations of practical and political perspectives on the societal transformations that are needed to meet the challenges of climate change.

Previous research of mine has explored ethical, philosophical, and socio-cultural issues related to reproductive technologies (such as pre-implantation genetic testing, egg donation, surrogate motherhood), organ donation, dementia, and different cultural and religious conceptions of death. My past work has examined conditions for global bioethics, and offered phenomenological investigations of parents’ experiences of donating a kidney to their child, and how norms about sexed embodiment can be expressed and enacted within specific medical practices and help to shape decisions about genital surgery when a child is born with intersex anatomy. It has examined the role of embodiment, pain and suffering for subjectivity and for our ways of perceiving and engaging with others and the world. I have also worked with conceptions of disease and with the role of embodiment in relational autonomy conceptions. These past research projects have been funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR), Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ Pro Futura), the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE), and the Swedish Foundation for Internationalisation Collaboration in Research and Higher Education (STINT).

Teaching and Supervision

My teaching experience includes courses at undergraduate, master’s, and postgraduate levels within the areas of biomedical ethics, ethics, global health, gender studies and health, theoretical perspectives of humanistic and social science health research, and qualitative and philosophical methodology, as some examples. Are you a master’s student or PhD candidate interested in medical humanities or bioethics? Feel free to contact me for more information about activities at LiU in these areas.

Internationalisation and collaboration

International collaboration and international aspects of research and teaching are central to my way of working. I have spent several periods as guest researcher abroad, including one year as Pro Futura Fellow at Cambridge University, UK, (2014/2015) as part of a five-year Pro Futura Scientia Fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, a post doc and internship at the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, (2005), and one year as guest researcher at Cardiff University, UK (2000/2001).

Collaborations take place within and beyond research projects, in a rich variety of ways. The Centre for Medical Humanities and Bioethics places a strong emphasis on this work. Are you interested in collaboration with the centre? If so, you are very welcome to contact me or others involved.


Selection of the latest publications in LiU DIVA


Anette Wickström, Sofia Morberg Jämterud, Kristin Zeiler (2022) Inledning Screeningens mångsidighet: Dess möjligheter och utmaningar, p. 9-25

Research projects


Related research