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This programme of linked research projects was established through an initial grant from the Ethox Foundation in 2009. Research within this programme examines a number of different ethical issues that arise in the everyday care and support provided to ‘vulnerable adults’ – a group that is taken to include (but is not limited to) people with dementia, mental disorders, or intellectual disabilities. The care provided to vulnerable adults presents an increasing range of complex and important ethical and communication issues of concern to patients, carers, and health and social care professionals. Moreover, many of the activities necessary to meet the needs of these adults are provided within the community rather than hospitals or other clinical settings, often for extended periods of time. These care settings, and the ethical issues that arise within them, have generally been given less attention by ethicists than those arising in hospitals or acute care environments.

In order to correct this imbalance, a number of research projects are currently underway. These include:

  • An analysis of the concept of ‘doing good’ in long-term and chronic care services. This study is designed to clarify the value and purpose of long-term support, when the needs of those receiving such support cannot be captured solely in terms of cure, clinical benefit, rehabilitation, or health management.
  • Legal and ethical analyses of substitute decision-making in the day-to-day support provided to adults with dementia and adults with learning disabilities in community care settings.
  • An ethical analysis of contemporary legal, policy and practice developments in adult and child protection.
  • An ethical analysis of the use of different assistive technologies in social care settings.