Project Description

Home / Members / Graduate Students / Jessica du Toit


  • Medical Ethics

  • Research Ethics

  • Animal Ethics


  • Rotman Institute of Philosophy
    Western University
    Western Interdisciplinary Research Building, 7175
    London, Ontario, Canada
    N6A 3K7


Doctoral Student;
Department of Philosophy, Western University

I am currently a doctoral student in the Philosophy Department at Western University. I am an international student, and am originally from the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa, where I received my B.A. (English and Philosophy), Honours (Philosophy) and Masters (Philosophy) degrees from the University of Cape Town. My philosophical interests are in applied ethics, particularly issues in animal and medical ethics. I am supervised by Professor Charles Weijer and my current work on the ethics of pragmatic randomized controlled trials is supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. When I am not doing philosophy, I can usually be found running or drinking tea. I also really love dogs.

Given that my research interests are in both animal ethics and bioethics, my doctoral research will focus on an ethical issue at the interface between pediatric and animal research. Consider that there are certain basic protections for all humans who participate in clinical research. There are additional protections for all children who participate in such research. For example, if children are to be permitted to participate in clinical research, an appropriate surrogate must consent to research participation on the child’s behalf, and the research itself must pose minimal – or a minor increase over minimal – risks to the child. Interestingly, despite the fact that pediatric research is strictly regulated in this way, it remains contested.

By contrast, while there are certain basic protections for most animals who participate in research, these protections are not nearly as restrictive as the basic protections for human research participants. What is more, there is relatively little controversy about animal research, even when the animal subjects are experimented on for the sake of humans. This is striking because animal research participants seem to be very like child research participants in relevant respects. They, too, are sentient beings who are unable to consent to research participation.

Thus, in my dissertation I shall probe whether this difference in attitude and regulatory protections is justified. Put slightly differently, I shall ask whether children and animals are similar in relevant respects such that our attitudes towards research with them and the research protections that we afford them should be much more closely aligned. And, if it is the case that these should be much more closely aligned, then should we be less concerned about pediatric research, or more concerned about animal research? What I hope to show is that many children and many animals have very similar interests at stake in the context of research. In virtue of this fact, their interests should be given equal consideration. Giving equal consideration to the interests of children and animals results in different treatment, however, as animals run a much greater risk of being wronged in the context of clinical research. This is largely a result of the structural speciesism in our society.


“Emotional Support Animals are Not Like Prosthetics: A Response to Sara Kolmes”, a piece co-written with David Benatar, in Journal of Medical Ethics, published 2020, online first.

“In the Name of Science: Animal Appellations and Best Practice”, in Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 46, December 2020, pp. 840-843.

“Are Indirect Benefits Relevant to Health Care Allocation Decisions?”, a piece co-written with Joseph Millum, in Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Vol. 41(5), October 2016.

“Is Having Pets Morally Permissible?”, in Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 33(3), August 2016, pp. 327-343.

“The Ethics of Continued Life-Sustaining Treatment for Those Diagnosed as Brain Dead”, a piece co-written with Franklin Miller, in Bioethics, Vol. 30(3), March 2016, pp. 151-158.

“Pets and Dependency”, in The Forum, 16 November 2015, available online at

“A case for tobacco content regulation by the U.S Food and Drug Administration” in Current Oncology, Vol. 17(4), pp. 59-61. 2010.

Book Chapters

“The Case for Valuing Non-Health and Indirect Benefits”, a chapter co-written with Govind Persad, in Global Health Priority-Setting: Beyond Cost-Effectiveness, edited by Joseph Millum et al, published by Oxford University Press, 2019.

“The Ethics of Domestication”, in the Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics, edited by Bob Fischer, published by Routledge, 2019.

“Reproducing Companion Animals”, a chapter co-written with David Benatar, in Pets and People: The Ethics of Our Relationships with Companion Animals, edited by Christine Overall, published by Oxford University Press, 2017.


MA Thesis

Can Human-Animal Relationships be Meaningful?

September 2019 – Present, Healthcare Ethics Teaching Assistant, Western University

July 2015 – Jan 2017, Bioethics Tutor and Examiner, University of Cape Town Medical School

June 2015 – Sept 2015, Ethics for Family Medicine Lecturer and Course Developer, University of Cape Town Medical School

July 2011-Dec. 2012, Philosophy Plus (Ethics) Lecturer and Course Convenor, University of Cape Town

Jan. 2007 – Aug. 2013, Bioethics Tutor and Examiner, University of Cape Town Medical School

Jan. 2007 – Dec. 2012, Philosophy Tutor, University of Cape Town (Ethics, Applied Ethics and Philosophy of Education)