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07 June 2021

Defence Studies student wins EuroISME Prize for the best thesis in Military Ethics

MA student from the Defence Studies Department has been awarded the 2021 prize for the best MA thesis


Chosen from a competitive target group, Defence Studies MA student 1st Prize Winner is Surgeon Captain Richard Heames, enrolled on the ‘Ethics in the Military Profession’ Special Subject module, has been awarded the 2021 The International Society for Military Ethics in Europe (Euro-ISME) prize for the best European student’s thesis on military ethics.

Surgeon Captain Heames entered from the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, with the thesis “What should informed consent in the military look like in relation to pharmacological enhancements?”, which was under the supervision of Professor David Whetham.

In 2015, EuroISME’s Board of Directors decided to establish an annual prize for the best thesis on military ethics with aims to promote an active involvement in the study & application of military ethics, human rights and humanitarian law in a pro-active manner. The thesis of the winner of the first prize will be published in two European languages in order to improve the accessibility of military ethics for students from various language areas. The target groups consists mainly of European military officers and civilian students who have written their thesis in pursuit of an Academic Master Degree. 

The jury consists of seven European experts in both field experience and academia and is chaired by Col Rev Prof Dr PJ McCormack MBE, Dean of the Spurgeon’s College and former Assistant Chaplain General of the British Armed Forces. The winner will have the opportunity to deliver their publication at the Euro-ISME annual conference to military academics and civilian universities and will be published online and in print in up to three European languages.

On behalf of the jury, of EuroISMES Mmag. Stefan Gugerel (Austria) congratulated the winner, Surgeon Captain Heames, on his excellent work:

According to the jury, the winning thesis not only exceeds in style and clearness, it also combines a broader view, not only coming from a military – technical perspective, but also including the medical point of view. The comparison between civil and military standards opens a broad field, which could be worked on for other sciences as well, with hope that decision makers not only in the United Kingdom but all over Europe consider SgCapt Heames’ sharp and human dignity orientated conclusions. The main objective of the author is to clearly define the principle of ‘informed consent’ concerning pharmacological enhancements and/or treatments in both a medical and a military context. The decision to take pharmacological substances is frequently not a decision of the soldier alone to make, but the use of such substances can also be ordered by the chain of command.

Stefan Gugerel

The Special Subject module is offered as part of the Defence Studies MA for military students on the Advanced Command and Staff Course. ‘Ethics in the Military Profession’ is run by David Whetham, Professor of Ethics in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London. He is the Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics and is the Vice President and founding member of the European Chapter of the International Society for Military Ethics (Euro ISME).

The 10th Euro-ISME Annual Conference will be held online on 3rd, 10th and 17th June with the topic ‘Urban Warfare’, viewed from the perspectives of command and control, laws of war, humanitarian relief, human rights and artificial intelligence, the panels will discuss the asymmetry of urban warfare, and how it is one of the most challenging aspects of conflict. You can sign up here.

Surgeon Captain Richard Heames has been a Medical Officer in the Royal Navy, since joining in 1991. He has deployed operationally to the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, Baltic, Caribbean, Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean, interspersed with specialty training to become a consultant anaesthetist in both the UK and Canada. After 12 years as a practising consultant, he was selected for the Advanced Command and Staff Course in 2019 at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom and undertook a Masters in Defence Studies with Kings College London. He is now serving as the Deputy Commander of the Joint Hospital Group Headquarters at Lichfield in Staffordshire.

In this story

David Whetham

Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession