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Professor Deborah Bowman

Deputy Principal (Institutional Affairs)
Emeritus Professor of Bioethics, Clinical Ethics and Medical Law
Vice-Chancellor's Office

Deborah Bowman is Emeritus Professor of Bioethics, Clinical Ethics and Medical Law at St George’s. She has had a long career at St George's, culminating in her role as Deputy Principal, in which she led on cross-institutional matters, including Quality and Partnerships, Public and Civic Engagement, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Staff Careers, Development and Wellbeing and Athena SWAN. Since November 2020, Deborah has had a portfolio career working as a NED and Board member for different organisations, including a Mental Health NHS Trust, a statutory regulator and a Hospice. Deborah works as a consultant and advisor in ethics and organisational development across sectors, particular where values, high stakes decisions or difficult choices are under consideration. She continues as a researcher, writer and broadcaster, particularly for BBC radio. 

Deborah Bowman is an internationally recognised Professor of Clinical Ethics, Bioethics and Medical Law who has combined a successful academic career with effective and values-based senior leadership in Higher Education and health and social care, taking institutional responsibility across a wide portfolio, including impact and public engagement, equality and diversity and organisational development. In 2019, she was named Mentor of the Year in the Women of the Future Awards. In 2020, she was named as one of the UK’s ’50 Leading Lights’ in the Kindness and Leadership Awards. 

Deborah’s academic interests concern the application of ethics to policy, clinical practice, particularly moral distress and therapeutic relationships, public involvement in ethical debate, and healthcare regulation. She has published extensively and she has participated in many international projects concerning applied ethics and human responses to difficult situations. A particular focus is on innovative and practical ways to develop ethical awareness and confidence for professionals and more widely. She comments regularly about medical ethics in both academic and popular publications. She also works as a radio broadcaster, including as a presenter of Test Case, Patient Undone and as a regular panellist and programme consultant to Inside the Ethics Committee, all for BBC Radio 4. Deborah is a former editor-in-chief of the BMJ title Medical Humanities.

Her public engagement work is wide-ranging. She has appeared at many ideas, literary and science festivals, including Medicine Unboxed, DotMed, Cheltenham and Sick!, and collaborated with numerous arts organisations, particularly in theatre and drama. Recent productions on which she has worked include Elegy by Nick Payne for the Donmar Warehouse, Valhalla and The State We’re In both for Theatre 503, TomCat for the Southwark Playhouse and Killing Time for The Park Theatre. Deborah regularly serves as a programme consultant for television programmes about medicine and bioethics, including recently working on My Baby’s Life for Love Productions and Best Interests, currently in development for BBC One. Deborah speaks at many public events and panels, often as part of a series to accompany a theatre production or an arts event. She is a former member of the Wellcome Trust large arts awards and public engagement committees and currently serves on The Francis Crick Institute’s public engagement advisory board, collaborating on its forthcoming exhibition, 'Outwitting Cancer', for which she also wrote and presented a documentary.   

Deborah has a particular interest in, and commitment to, ethics in public discourse, public service and policy. She works with a number of governmental and arms-length bodies as well as several of the professional regulators. She is currently serving as the Chair of the General Medical Council’s working group revising its consent guidance for doctors which is due to be published in late 2020. She is a former member of the London Police Ethics Panel. Deborah is an experienced non-executive and Chair who currently holds roles as a Non-Executive Director of South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust and as a Council member of the General Osteopathic Council. She is a Trustee of the Princess Alice Hospice and serves as a Panel Chair for the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. Previous roles include serving as a former member of the Standards Committee of the General Optical Council and as the Chair of the Deafinitely Theatre Company and Sutton High GDST School.

Deborah has extensive experience working in clinical ethics support in the NHS and she has served on local and national clinical ethics committees and groups, including at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Great Ormond Street and Kingston Hospitals,  and the UK Clinical Ethics Network. She currently chairs the SW London and St George's Mental Health Clinical Ethics Committee and is a member of the Royal College of Anaesthetists Ethics Committee. She created an innovative clinical ethics coaching and mentoring approach and regularly works with clinical teams and services on an individual and group basis.  

In 2016, Professor Bowman was awarded an MBE for services to medical ethics. In 2019, she won the Mentor of the Year Award from Women of the Future. In 2020, Deborah was named as one of the UK's "50 Leading Lights" in recognition of her contribution to leadership and kindness. 

In October 2020, Deborah moved to a portfolio career whilst remaining an Emeritus Professor at the University of London.


Professor Bowman’s research has focused on doctors in difficulty, how professionals construct and respond to moral questions and problems, theatre and medicine and emotions and ethical decision-making. Particular areas of clinical interest include ethics in psychiatry, palliative medicine and paediatrics. She draws on narrative, virtue and performance to elucidate ethical questions and problems, sometimes writing analytic pieces and sometimes working in empirical methodologies. Multidisciplinary collaborations have been a feature of Deborah’s research throughout her career and she often is part of research teams comprising clinicians, scientists, educators, philosophers and humanities scholars.

Deborah Bowman regularly publishes in a wide range of academic titles including the British Medical Journal, Medical Humanities, Medical Education, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, the Journal of Medical Ethics, the Journal of Arts and Humanities in Education, Medical Teacher and the British Journal of Psychiatry. Recent work has examined the prevalence and importance of shame in medicine, particularly medical training, considered notions of public engagement in medical ethics discourse and explored the relationship between performance in the clinical consultation and theatrical skills and theory. Deborah has written and contributed to many books and essay collections for both specialist and popular audiences, including as part of the inaugural conference and subsequent book (The Archers in Fact and Fiction) from the Academic Archers group in which she considered the role of the doctor and his approach to medical ethics in BBC Radio 4’s long running radio drama The Archers. Her current project is contributing an essay on narrative approaches to breast cancer for a collection edited by Prof. Kimberly Myers as part of the Critical Medical Humanities series for the publisher Peter Lang which is due in 2021.

Examples of recent work includes:

  • Boyd, K, Murray, SA, Bowman, D, Brun N Should Palliative Care be Rebranded? BMJ 2019; 364: 1881
  • Bowman, D. Wisdom and Ethico-legal Practice: Ways of Seeing and Ways of Being in Higgs, J (Ed) Practice Wisdom: Values and Interpretation. Leiden: Brill Sense, 2019 at pp 256-276
  • Bowman, D., Bowman, J. The Seeing Place: Talking Theatre and Medicine. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 2018; 17(1): 166-181
  • Bowman, D. Forgiveness after Medical Harm in Hance, S. (Ed) Forgiveness in Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2018
  • Bowman, D. On Frailty and Ethics: Negotiating Narratives in Papanakitas, A., Spicer, J. (Eds) Handbook of Primary Care Ethics. Oxford: CRC Press, 2018
  • Bowman, D. Vulnerability, survival and shame in Nina Raine’s Tiger Country Medical Humanities 2017;43:264-268
  • Bowman, D. The Moral of the Tale: Stories, Trust and Public Engagement with
  • 10 Clinical Ethics. Journal of Bioethical Enquiry 2017; 14: 43-52
  • Bowman, D. From Dr Locke’s Boundaries to Carol’s Confession: On Medical Ethics in The Archers in Courage, C., Headlam, N and Matthews, P. (Eds) The Archers in Fact and Fiction. (2nd Ed) Edinburgh: Peter Lang, 2017
  • Bowman, D. Swanwick, T. Values-Based, Authentic and Ethical Leadership in Swanwick, T., McKimm, J. (Eds) ABC of Clinical Leadership (2nd Ed). Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, 2017
  • Bowman, D. On Memory and Identity in Payne, N. Elegy. London: Faber, 2016
  • Bowman, D. On Being ‘Good’ in the Medical Humanities Med Hums 2016; 42: 1-4
  • Bowman, D., Cushing, A. Ethics and Communication in Kumar, P., Clark, M. (Eds) Clinical Medicine (9th Edition) Oxford: Elsevier, 2016
  • Bowman, D. What Is It to Do Good Medical Ethics? J Med Ethics 2015; 41: 60-64
  • Ashby, A. O’Brien, A. Bowman, D., Hooper, C., Stevens, T., Lousada, E. Should Psychiatrist ‘Google’ Their Patients? BJ Psych Bull 2015; 39(6): 278-283
  • Bowman, D. On Identity in (the) Medical Humanities. Med Humanities 2014; 40: 1-2

Deborah Bowman continues to teach and supervise students at St George’s, University of London across all programmes and contributes to postgraduate education, both research-based and taught, in London and nationally.

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