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Maureen Kelley


Professor of Bioethics

Maureen Kelley is Professor of Bioethics at The Ethox Centre in the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, specializing in ethics and women's and children's health. Dr. Kelley is a moral philosopher and qualitative researcher by training and has worked for nearly twenty years as a clinical ethics consultant and instructor in paediatrics, adolescent medicine, and obstetrics.

Through qualitative empirical research and ethical argument her research identifies and addresses practical ethical challenges that adversely impact the health of particularly vulnerable populations of women and children. That is, women and children who are more susceptible to poor health due to structural social, economic and political circumstances. She is particularly interested in addressing sociocultural and ethical barriers to treatment for preventable diseases and adverse health outcomes, such as stillbirth, preterm birth, infection, malnutrition, and maternal-neonatal death and morbidity during childbirth. In child health she has focused on barriers to improving access to health care for children living without parents—orphans, migrant children, foster children, and homeless youth. Her research has been supported by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, The Greenwall Foundation, and The Wellcome Trust.

Dr. Kelley has served on a number of global health research projects as a bioethics investigator. From 2008 to 2014 she was part of an international team in maternal, neonatal, and child health, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to conduct ongoing research and advocacy in the global prevention of prematurity and stillbirth (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity & Stillbirth, or GAPPS). From 2009 to 2012 she was part of a project that aimed to better understand the socio-cultural and ethical barriers to timely, supported HIV disclosure to children and adolescents in regions with high HIV-1 disease burden and high rates of non-disclosure. She is currently the ethics Co-investigator on a project in Kenya, evaluating women, partner, and expert stakeholder attitudes on the ethical inclusion of pregnant women in demonstration studies surrounding PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV). The aims are to better understand how women, partners, and clinicians make decisions about a woman's health during pregnancy against the backdrop of high HIV-risk.

Most recently, with colleagues from the Oxford-Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes in Thailand, Kenya, and South Africa, Maureen will lead a new collaborative research project supported by the Wellcome Trust to examine the role of vulnerability and agency of women, children and families in research in low-resource settings. The project aims to fill the critical gaps in ethics guidance for responsible research with women, children and families in low-income countries. It is an interdisciplinary study with investigators in bioethics, maternal-child health, infectious disease and social science research all working towards advancing our understanding of specific vulnerabilities in context, the role of social support in mitigating vulnerability and individuals' own perceptions of vulnerabilities and abilities. The outcomes will help inform innovative, ethically responsive approaches to research aimed at lessening the burden of disease shouldered by women and children.