Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Retrospective DNA technologies and integrity for historical persons

This PhD project investigated the question whether or not dead people in general, and historical persons in particular, can be harmed. With the substantial successes of DNA technology it is now possible to acquire genetic information from very old DNA.

DNA-analysis could help to answer questions regarding historical persons, for example whether or not Queen Christina of Sweden was a pseudo-hermaphrodite. Should the dead be respected in these situations or are we free to satisfy our curiosity? What duties (if any) do we have vis-à-vis the dead and what would be the basis of these duties?


Masterton M, Duties to Past Persons: Moral Standing and Posthumous Interests of Old Human Remains, doctoral thesis, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010.

Masterton M, Hansson MG, Höglund AT, In search of the missing subject: narrative identity and posthumous wronging, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 2010;41(4):340-346.

Masterton M, Hansson MG, Höglund AT, Helgesson G, Can the Dead be Brought into Disrepute? Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 2007;28:137-149.

Masterton M, Helgesson G, Höglund AT, Hansson MG, Queen Christina's moral claim on the living – justification of a tenacious moral intuition, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 2007;10:(3): 321-327.

PhD student

Malin Masterton's main area of interest is bioethics, and in particular ethical aspects connected to molecular biology. Her background is undergraduate studies in biology (molecular biology) at the University of Edinburgh (2002), followed by courses in practical philosophy at Uppsala University, and PhD studies in bioethics. Malin Masterton defended her thesis "Duties to Past Persons: Moral Standing and Posthumous Interests of Old Human Remains" in 2010. After her PhD she did a post-doc at CRB on public opinion of science and animal testing within the framework of the COMBINE consortium followed by a project on disaster victim identification and the role of the dead body.


Thinking about ethics

Why would a cancer patient agree to test a drug that might not be effective on their own disease? And are researchers responsible if their research can be used to develop biological weapons? This collection of texts might not provide the answers, but at least give you some food for thought.

Pär Segerdahl invites you on a journey through some of the issues that the Ethics Blog has dealt with in the recent years. He writes about researchers’ responsibilities, about participating in research and about information and integrity. But he also writes about ethics as such: What is it today, really? In this book you can read about data protection and population based biobank studies. But you can also read about apes writing articles and about the risk with knowing the risk.

This book contains a collection of Pär Segerdahl's posts from the Ethics Blog (ISBN: 978-91-506-2433-5). There is also a Swedish version of the book: Tänker om etik

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Thinking about ethics - Pär Segerdahl