PhD Research

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Start Date: January 2014

Description of PhD Research:

My interdisciplinary research examines calls to change existing legislation surrounding one’s ‘right to die’. This highly divisive issue exploded to the forefront of Irish society when Marie Fleming took her fight for this ‘right’ to the Supreme Court in 2013. Although Marie’s request was denied, her bravery and resilience in the face of death undoubtedly touched the hearts of the nation. This landmark case, however, left more unanswered questions than issues resolved, effectively highlighting Ireland’s political and legal ineptitude to converge and resolve moral issues.

Subsequent to Fleming’s emotive trial, there have been numerous examples of our political representatives once again ignoring calls to discuss this topic despite a formal invite from the Supreme Court to do so and strong public support for such measures. O’Mahony and Delanty (1998) state that ‘deliberate non-recognition implies that those forces who do not wish to address problems have the capacity to suppress them’. Some individuals and groups feel it is unjust to be denied the status of full partners in social interaction simply as a consequence of institutionalised patterns of cultural values in whose construction they have not equally participated.

A main objective of my study is to apply a detailed frame analysis to dialogic disputes currently raging in particular political, legal, and media settings, documenting in detail how existing regulation in right to die cases come to be constructed by these actors and publicly challenged by specific opponents as ‘unjust’. This will detail how normal justice (established legal-political and social interpretations of justice) is problematised by failing to offer due recognition, opportunity, or representation to all those claiming to suffer as a result.

Moreover, my research facilitates a type of ‘flow of discourse’; this acts as a crucial caveat insofar as instances of political and legal engagement are only instigated through talk and reflection. The analysis of key contestations implicitly contributes to processes of collective learning, increasing the normative force and social life of (perceived) entitlements, which in turn, potentially enhance reflexive moral political and legal reasoning on the necessity of possible legal reform on this issue. My aim is to synthesise Irish research on this topic with our European counterparts and become the pioneer of sociological and philosophical research on competing justice frames on the right to die in Ireland.


Main Interests: Sociology, Philosophy, Human Rights, Society and the Public Sphere, Frankfurt School, Civil Critical Theory, Ethics, Secularization, Discourse Analysis, End of life care, and Assisted Dying

 Awards: Full scholarship for a Masters in Sociology (Taught Masters) by the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (2012/13)

Publications: Keogh, J. Can we ever have a ‘right to die’? A reflective consideration of assisted suicide in Ireland. The Boolean. 2015. p92

Conferences: May 2014: Paper entitled: ‘Framing justice in ‘unjust times’: Assessing legal and political debates on the right to die’. Human Rights Research Students’ Conference. University of Essex. England

April 2016: Assisted Decision Making (capacity) Act 2015 – The Statutory Duty to use a Rights Based Approach to Support Decision Making. University College Cork.

May 2016: ‘Embracing the heart of end of loss, grief, bereavement’. Marymount University Hospital & Hospice. Cork.