Jackie Leach Scully

ADM+S Prof Jackie Leach Scully Featured on ABC Perspective Shift

Authors Natalie Campbell
Date 24 June 2022

ADM+S Chief Investigator Prof Jackie Leach Scully is an internationally recognised bioethicist, specialising in disability and feminist bioethics. She is also the first subject of ABC’s Perspective Shift documentary series, profiling leading academics in the STEM fields living with disability.

“There’s a longstanding tension between the world of bioethics and the disability world. Bioethics can be criticised for oversimplifying a lot of things, and one of them is disability,” said Jackie.

Diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis at the age of 8, Jackie became deaf. Giving up a love of music at a young age due to her hearing impairment, she pursued a career in academia. Jackie studied biochemistry at Oxford University, and furthered her education with a PhD in molecular pathology soon after.

Drawing on experience growing up with disability and coming from mixed-race heritage, Jackie’s studies laid the foundation for a research career with a strong socioethical focus.

“There’s a history of having sometimes disastrously low expectations of what people with disabilities can do. I have encountered some bioethics colleagues who just seem to find it quite difficult to cope with me because I’m a person with a disability and they’re not used to seeing peers and colleagues as disabled. I felt that it’s been more of an advantage than a disadvantage to be able to bring that experience into my bioethical thinking and also into bioethics in general.”

Working in a field of applied philosophy, drawing on questions with social, political, and economical consequence, Jackie has been a pioneer of empirical research in the field. The ABC Perspective Shift episode highlights key experiences that have shaped her, and her research as a bioethicist.

“The process of research is never something that leads to a black or white answer. It’s like an explosion of colour and light… an ever-branching line of questioning and answering, constantly becoming more and more complex.”

With the motive of informing policy and practitioner guidelines, Jackie’s disability has been an asset to her research in technological innovation for marginalised communities. Her impact and achievement in the social science field was recognised in 2017 where she was awarded a fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences in the UK.

In 2019, Prof Scully moved to Australia, as Professor of Bioethics and the Director of the Disability Innovation Institute at the University of New South Wales, providing expert commentary on technology, and disability.

“I would like to think that younger academics, younger students, can look further up the ladder and see professionals with whom they can identify – they can see themselves in those positions.

“I often get asked, ‘If you could take a pill now and have your hearing back, have your disability removed, you would have it, wouldn’t you?’

“I’m honest in saying that, actually, no. I wouldn’t.”

You can watch the full episode on Youtube.

Learn more about Jackie’s research.