Ruth Horn

Wellcome Trust Research Fellow
Tel  01865287888
Fax  01865289226
Contact address  The Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford, OX3 7LF
College Linacre College

Research summary

Ruth Horn is an Ethics and Society Wellcome Trust Fellow carrying out a comparative research on advance directives in England, France, and Germany. She has studied Sociology in Germany (BA, University Ludwig-Maximilian, Munich) and France (MA, University Paris Diderot; MA Res and PhD, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris). Ruth is also a Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford, and an associate member of the research centre SPHERE, CNRS, University Paris Diderot (

Ruth’s general research interest lies in exploring ethical questions raised by medical practices. She has a particular interest in understanding in which context (legal, cultural, socio-historical) these questions emerge in the public space, how they are treated in the debate of a specific country (UK, France, Germany) and what are the concrete practices these debates refer to.

For this purpose she investigates: 1) through documentary research the development of debates and arguments that are advanced in the ethical, political and legal discourses as well as in the daily press; 2) through ethnographic research (interviews and participant observations) the concrete medical practices.

Ruth’s research, so far, has been principally on dilemmas at the end of life, particularly regarding the tensions between respect for patient autonomy and physicians’ duty to protect life. Her PhD was an examination of the euthanasia debate and underlying end-of-life practices in France and Germany (her country of origin). This study was published in a monograph: Le droit de mourir: Choisir sa fin de vie en France et en Allemagne, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013.

Drawing on her doctoral work Ruth became interested in advance directives. Prior to joining ETHOX she worked at the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol, on a project comparing the legislation and arguments regarding advance directives employed in public discourse in England and France (parliamentary reports, reports of National Ethics Committees, professional guidelines), and by physicians (semi-structured interviews). This research (ADVANCED-FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IEF-254825) has been funded by the Marie Curie IEF Fellowship Programme of the European Commission.

Ruth’s current Wellcome Trust research aims to deepen knowledge about the practices and problems actually encountered in the implementation of advance directives by taking into account the views of health care professionals, patients and families, as well as exploring, through ethnographic fieldwork (direct observations and semi-structured interviews), current practices and ethical problems that emerge in daily practices. Furthermore, Ruth is widening the knowledge base, by including a third country, Germany, which offers a different approach to advance directives, to both France and England. The aim of this research is to contribute to a more nuanced and informed ethical analysis and policy making regarding the use of advance directives in each of the three countries but also in Europe (and beyond).


Recent Publications (selection):

R. Horn, A. Kerasidou, The concept of “dignity” and its use in end-of-life debates in England and France, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, (forthcoming).

R. Horn, “I don’t need my patients’ opinion to withdraw treatment”: Patient preferences at the end-of-life and physician attitudes towards advance directives in England and France, Medicine, Healthcare and Philosophy, 2014;17(3):425-35.

R. Horn, R. ter Meulen, Advance directives in the context of limited resources for health care, in N. Biller-Andorno S. Brauer and P. Lack (Eds.), Advance Directives: ethical issues from an international perspective, International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine, Springer, 2013;54:181-192.

R.J. Jox, R. Horn, R. Huxtable, European Perspectives on Ethics and Law in End-of-Life Care, in J.L. Bernat and H.R. Beresford (Eds.), Ethical and Legal Issues in Neurology, Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Elsevier, 2013;118:155-65.

R. Huxtable, R. Horn, Continuous sedation at the end of life: Balancing benefits and harms in England, Germany and France, in S. Sterckx, K. Raus and F. Mortier (Eds), Continuous sedation at the end of life: Ethical, clinical and legal perspectives, Cambridge University Press, 2013;0:160-176.

R. Horn, Advance directives in England and France: Different Concepts, Different Values, Different Societies, Health Care Analysis, 2012;22(1):59-72.

R. Horn, Euthanasia and end-of-life practices in France and Germany. A comparative study, Medicine, Healthcare and Philosophy, 2011;16(2):197-209.