"so blown away and impressed at my first conference of Healthcare and Secularism ...the speakers were quite inspirational and took commitment to another level I learnt so much and will definitely join them."

Facebook comment from attendee

From the right of women to access abortion and contraception to the right of the terminally ill to die with dignity, there are few issues in medical ethics that are not influenced by the voices of faith groups. But to what extent should "religious freedom" be accommodated in healthcare? And how can we ensure that patient care is always prioritised over religious concerns?

For the first time, the National Secular Society is holding a conference focusing on the role of secularism within healthcare. Featuring talks by academics and experts in the fields of medicine, law and ethics, the Healthcare & Secularism conference will give participants the opportunity to discuss the most pressing secular medical issues today, including conscientious objection, 'gay conversion therapy', ritual circumcision, and assisted dying.

This is a rare opportunity for doctors, healthcare professionals, researchers, campaigners and others interested in medical ethics to meet, network and further the discussion about how we can protect the human rights of patients of all faiths and none.


Introduction and Keynote Speech - Dr Antony Lempert

Reclaiming Conscience in Healthcare - Professor Michael Thomson

Abusive Practice of Gay Conversion Therapy - Jayne Ozanne

One Green Bottle, male circumcision and the law - James Chegwidden

Gender or genital autonomy? - Brian Earp

Standing up to Abortion Opponents - Ann Furedi

An update on Assisted Dying - Dr Jacky Davis

Medically Assisted Rational Suicide - Dr Michael Irwin


  • Dr Antony Lempert, Secular Medical Forum (Chair)
    Dr Lempert is a partner in a rural GP practice on the Welsh/English border. Since 2008 he has coordinated and chaired the SMF which works to protect patients from the harm caused by the imposition on them of other people's personal beliefs. Dr Lempert is a BMA representative, and chairs the Shropshire division of the BMA.
  • James Chegwidden, Old Square Chambers
    James Chegwidden is a barrister practising from Old Square Chambers in London. Originally from Australia and called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 2008, he specialises in equality and discrimination law and public law cases. He formerly worked as avocat stagiaire at the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, and was appointed Attorney General's Counsel to the Crown in 2013.
  • Dr Jacky Davis, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying
    Consultant radiologist Whittington Hospital; Member BMA Council; Member BMA ethics committee; Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying Board member Dignity in Dying
  • Brian Earp, The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
    Brian is Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy at Yale University and The Hastings Center, and a Research Fellow in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. Brian's work is cross-disciplinary, following training in philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, history and sociology of science and medicine, and ethics. He has been widely published and has been cited in a landmark British high court case by Sir James Munby.
  • Ann Furedi, British Pregnancy Advisory Service
    Ann Furedi is Chief Executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a not-for-profit provider of abortion services in the UK. She is a leading pro-choice advocate and has written extensively on issue relating to pregnancy and birth control.
  • Dr Michael Irwin, Former chairman, Voluntary Euthanasia Society
    Michael Irwin is a former Medical Director of the United Nations, in New York (1982-1989). He has campaigned for legalised doctor-assisted suicide since 1994, having been Chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (1996-1999, and again 2001-2003), and President of the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies (2002-2004). He founded the Secular Medical Forum in 2006, and the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide in 2009 (in 2016, SOARS was renamed My Death My Decision). Since 2005, Michael has accompanied five individuals to Switzerland to witness their doctor-assisted suicides.
  • Jayne Ozanne, The Ozanne Foundation
    Jayne Ozanne is a well-known gay evangelical who works to ensure full inclusion of all LGBTI Christians at every level of the Church. She is Director of the Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organisations around the world to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender in order to embrace and celebrate the equality and diversity of all. Having been a founding member of the Archbishops' Council for the Church of England (1999 – 2004) she is once again a member of General Synod where she is involved in campaigning on a range of issues.
  • Professor Michael Thomson, Law & Social Justice Research Group at Leeds Law School
    Michael Thomson is Professor of Health Law at the University of Leeds and University of Technology Sydney. At Leeds he is the founder and Director of the School's Centre for Law & Social Justice. His research interests span the fields of health law, children's rights, and legal and political theory. In health law, he has written extensively on the legal regulation of reproduction and non-therapeutic genital cutting.