Unlimited Liability/My research

MILITARY MEDICAL ETHICS (current publishing - in press)

Due to the COVID19 situation, a number of conferences and publications have been put on hold until 2021.

The International Committee on Military Medicine book "The Impact of the Duty to Obey Orders in Relation to Medical Care in the Military" which was going to be published by Springer in May 2020, will now be delayed until 2021. For that reason, I am uploading my In Press copy of my chapter When to Suspend Bioethical Principles in Military Medicine for Operational Purposes : a Framework Approach, as it directly discusses the medical decision-making process during a pandemic.


The so-called ‘unlimited liability contract’ (ULC) is an implied contract that impacts on the lives of military personnel worldwide. The ULC is also referred to as the unlimited liability covenant, the unlimited liability concept and the unlimited liability commitment in a number of writings on other subjects that mention the ULC in passing.  The ULC was first mentioned (but not defined) by General Sir John Hackett in 1962 Hackett[1].  The concept of the unlimited liability contract is that when members of the military ‘sign up’ for military duty they surrender certain rights by the very nature of their military service – they must obey legal orders, are placed at an increased risk of harm or death in certain situations due to their military service and they surrender certain rights by the very nature of their military service, such as their right to safety, to autonomy, to freedom of movement, and so on.  Thus the ULC is invoked as a standard justification for placing military personnel in morally exceptional situations. My interest is to examine whether the ULC is in fact a valid explanation for placing military personnel in morally exceptional circumstances that would be unacceptable for civilians. 

You can read more about unlimited liability and how it relates to soldiers at the Encyclopedia of Military Ethics here.

This is a short video of me explaining part of my research in this area

[1] Hackett, J. W. and Center of Military History. (1986). The profession of arms : the 1962 Lees Knowles lectures given at Trinity College, Cambridge. Washington, D.C., Center of Military History, U.S. Army.