Charles Foster

Fellow of Green Templeton College: Visiting Professor, Faculty of Law


I am a Fellow of Green Templeton College, a member of the Oxford Law Faculty (where I am a Visiting Professor), a Senior Research Associate at the Uehiro Institute for Practical Ethics (within the Faculty of Philosophy), and a Research Associate at the Ethox Centre and the Helex Centre (both within the Faculty of Medicine).

My main areas of interest are medical law and ethics. Recently I have focussed particularly on questions of identity, personhood, and authenticity, on whether theories of human dignity can do any real work in the law, and on the use of intuitions in moral and legal reasoning. The next substantial projects are (a) a collaboration with the Freie Universitat, Berlin, on the use made in England and Germany of the notion of human dignity, and (b) the How Institutions Think project – a multi-disciplinary venture under the auspices of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Oxford (Professor Steve Rayner), which examines distributed cognition in institutional frameworks. My part is to analyse how such distributed cognition does and should affect the identity of the individuals within institutions, and to suggest what this should mean for legal regulation. 

I still practise as a barrister, but most of my time is now spent in academia. As a barrister I have been involved in some of the key cases in medical law, including the assisted suicide litigation in the House of Lords (Purdy v DPP, 2009) and the Supreme Court (Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice, 2014), and the challenge in the Supreme Court to the requirement for court endorsement of the withdrawal of life-sustaining nutrition and hydration from patients in prolonged disorders of consciousness (An NHS Trust v Y, 2018). I am currently (2019) instructed in Mortier v Belgium, a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights to the operation of the Belgian euthanasia law. I was the Chambers and Partners Junior of the Year for Professional Discipline in 2011, and have for many years been recognized as a leading barrister for Professional Discipline and Clinical Negligence in the Chambers and Partners directory and the Legal 500.

I sit as a part-time judge in the Crown Court and the County Court, and am authorised to try serious sexual cases.

Since 2011 I have been the legal adviser to the Royal College of Physicians Committee for Ethics in Medicine, and I am on the Steering Group of the Fiction and Human Rights Project.


  • Medical law and medical ethics
  • Abortion
  • Status of the embryo
  • Reproductive technology
  • Cloning
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Withdrawal of medical treatment
  • Assisted suicide
  • Euthanasia
  • Clinical negligence
  • Regulation of the healthcare professions
  • End of life decision-making
  • Advance directives (living wills)
  • Organ donation, ownership and use of body parts
  • Transhumanism, human enhancement
  • Medical murder, medical manslaughter
  • Medical treatment of children and incapacitate adults
  • Mental capacity
  • Persistent (Permanent) Vegetative State
  • Allocation of healthcare resources
  • Clinical confidentiality
  • Legal and ethical regulation of medical research

Media experience

Extensive experience of TV and radio interviews and liaison with print journalists.