Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville

Senior Fellow, Comment Advisory

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor of Law Emerita, Professor Emerita in the Faculty of Medicine, and Founding Director Emerita of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, Montreal, where she taught from 1978 to 2016, when she returned to Sydney to become Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

She has a distinguished academic record and an extensive national and international publishing and speaking record and is a frequent commentator in all forms of media.

She has authored several books—The Ethical Canary: Science, Society, and the Human Spirit (Penguin, 2000); Death Talk: the Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (MQUP, 2002); The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit (Anansi, 2006), which she delivered as the nationally broadcast CBC 2006 Massey Lectures; and most recently Bird on an Ethics Wire: Battles About Values in the Culture Wars (MQUP, 2015)—and has edited others.

She has also published chapters and articles in academic texts and journals and comment columns in the mainstream media, totaling many hundreds. Her scholarly articles include “Bioethics in the News: The Values at Stake (Church, Communication and Culture, 2019); “Does It Matter How We Die? Ethical and Legal Issues Raised by Combining Euthanasia and Organ Transplantation” (The Linacre Quarterly, 2019); “Could ‘The Wonder Equation’ Help Us to Be More Ethical? A Personal Reflection” (Ethics & Behavior, 2021).

Professor Somerville consults, nationally and internationally, to a wide variety of bodies including governments, NGOs, UN agencies, and private corporations. She has received many honours and awards including the Order of Australia, eight honorary doctorates, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2003 she was chosen by an international jury as the first recipient of the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science; in 2013 she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for services to higher education; and in 2014 she received the Jean Echlin Award for Ethics in Palliative Care sponsored by the de Veber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research. Most recently, in 2020 Pope Francis appointed her a Dame of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.