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The Ethics of Powerlessness is a research project based in the School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex. The project started in July 2015 and will run for three years. Our aim is to clarify the ethical challenges that arise from human experiences of powerlessness, especially in contexts of palliative and end-of-life care.


Queries about the work of the EoP should be directed to Prof. Béatrice Han-PileDr. Daniel Watts or Dr. David Batho.

Messages concerning administrative and logistic matters should be emailed to: powerlessness[at]





The Phenomenology of Powerlessness

In October 2015 we published ‘Experiences of Powerlessness in End-of-Life Care’. This paper identified three key features of experiences of powerlessness as described in advanced medical research. Moreover, we proposed that these features manifest an experience of powerlessness insofar as they undermine what we called ‘the power to be oneself’. In this paper, our aim is to deepen the discussion of this latter notion.

Experiences of Powerlessness in End of Life Care Green Paper Title Page

Experiences of Powerlessness in End-of-Life Care

In this Green Paper we shall review recent studies on experiences of powerlessness in health care with specific interest in end-of-life care. Our aim is to bring into view the central features of experiences of powerlessness in end-of-life care contexts, as these experiences have been described in advanced research. In an appendix we list a number of questions we believe call for future research.

Ethics of Powerlessness Research Team

End-of-life care and the search for a new ethical approach: Essex researchers call for an “ethics of powerlessness”

Our friends, family and the professionals looking after us in the most difficult circumstances can also often find themselves helpless to improve the situation. Philosophers at the University of Essex are now looking to understand experiences of powerlessness by working with academics and healthcare professionals including staff at St Helena Hospice in Colchester.