"I want to revitalize research in clinical medical ethics"

4 January 2022

Niklas Juth

Niklas Juth has most recently worked at Karolinska Institutet.

Hello to Niklas Juth, from 1 February 2022 the new professor of clinical medical ethics, in a newly established chair. Why was it set up?

“Because medical ethics is a topical and growing subject. Every day, the media report on a range of issues associated with values ​​in health care. Ethics is a matter of looking at values ​​and norms and addressing questions of how to prioritise in matters like vaccinations, which patients should receive care first, how much patients should be allowed to decide for themselves, and how much pressure to agree to various treatments is acceptable. Ethics is a huge public issue, and it’s reasonable to look at it in research terms as well. This Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics (CRB), where I’ve been appointed to the professorship, is Sweden's largest medical ethics centre.”

What do you think your key tasks will be?
”It’s going to be trying to revitalise research in clinical medical ethics. The ethics of clinical medicine is a matter of the ethical issues that arise in healthcare – that is, the type of activity that most people come across in their contact with health care. It’s important to explore what we should strive for and what the key ethical issues are, such as preventing ill health through fetal diagnostics and helping people decide what families they want to form. Helping people make decisions can be an objective. One issue that needs to be investigated further is what goals the health care system should have.

What’s your own research about?
“In the past few years, I’ve been looking a great deal at priority issues relating to patients: which of them should get priority for orphan drugs aimed at patients with unusual diseases. My view is that people shouldn’t have to pay extra just because a condition is rare. Overall, we have a good model in Sweden where we subsidise drugs for serious conditions. They often bring greater needs, and paying for them may result in greater equality.

“Other things I’ve been looking at are end-of-life care, whether we should allow euthanasia either through doctor-assisted suicide or where doctors administer a lethal dose at the patient's request.

“I’ve also spent a lot of time on screening, such as phenylketonuria (PKU) screening tests of newborns and fetal diagnostics.”