Student Reflections on the Manchester Bioethics and Health Law Conference 2023


Aydin Rezazadeh - PGT Student

Aydin Rezazadeh – PGT Student

Aydin Rezazadeh

It was a dream come true to recently attend the Manchester Bioethics and Health Law Conference, my first academic event of the kind! During the conference, I was most fascinated by the panel discussion on ‘Assigning Sex and Affirming Gender’, which examined the role of parents and other parties in gender decision-making. 

The first paper, presented by Ed Horowitz, explored the ethical concerns of the rights of parents in gender decision-making for children and discussed the Tavistock case – which ruled that consent for the use of puberty blockers should be obtained from both children and parents. The presentation highlighted the importance of considering the experiences of parenting gender diverse children, and the stigma associated with it, when examining parental decision-making. 

The second paper (presented by Fae Garland) focussed on medical interventions and decision-making of parents in the case of intersex minors. This discussed Malta’s ‘Gender Identity, Gender Expressions and Sex Characteristics Act 2015’ – an act which dictates that there should be no medically-unnecessary sex assignment surgery for intersex children until they reach the age of informed consent. The presentation debated the benefits and potential challenges of granting children the right to be their own decision-makers, against the context of cultural expectations on parents, and the potential social impacts of late disclosures of intersex conditions. 

The third paper (given by Kate Goldie Townsend) offered a further insight into the role of medical ‘experts’ in decision-making, debating where practitioners make decisions out of medical necessity versus norm maintenance. These presentations were eye-opening to the constant tension between the interests of the children in question and their autonomy, and the social expectations of their parents and of medical practitioners involved in decision-making.

On a personal level, attending this conference gave me a significant insight into a career in academia. The opportunity to witness experts in the field speaking about their most recent research and their passions, as well as seeing how tightly knit and inclusive the community around healthcare ethics and legal research is, opened new doors for my own future. What I found especially interesting was the application of the foundational, theoretical side of medical law and bioethics that we are learning in class being applied to cutting edge research that is having a direct positive impact on public policy. While I lacked the experience and knowledge to fully understand everything that was being discussed, I enjoyed listening to different debates during the panel, and I found myself considering pursuing this path in my own future.

Furthermore, the discussions and presentations offered valuable ideas for my dissertation, as well as interesting points to further explore in my own reading. I am very interested in areas around reproduction and the future of reproductive technologies, and as such the panel on the topic not only opened my eyes to ethical and legal issues in this field, but also pointed me in the direction of where to explore in further research. I would highly recommend that any postgraduate masters students who are passionate about this field attend any similar events take place next year as it was academically interesting, personally enriching and inspiring, and was altogether a very fun day spent with like-minded people!


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