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Dr Matthew Watkins

Dr Matthew Watkins

Post-doctoral Research Associate


Matthew is currently an ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Socio-Legal Studies at Cardiff University. His current research focuses on the law, politics and ethics of health, particularly in Wales. Matthew's research utilises socio-legal and empirical bioethical methods to investigate the real life impact of legal and ethical standards on medical decision-making and systems of care. He is currently writing his monograph entitled: "Law, Ethics and Medical decision-making: missing the Moral in information disclosure" which incorporates the first empirical study on the effect of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and indemnity provision on medical decision-making about information disclosure, in England and Wales. 

Matthew joined the School of Law and Politics in March 2021, where he acted as a Research Associate on the project: 'Towards a Welsh Health Law: Values, Governance and Devolution after Covid-19', funded by Ser Cymru. This built upon Matthew's previous research on law and ethics of organ donation in Wales, developed through previous postgraduate study. More recently Matthew was appointed a named Postdoctoral Research Associate on two linked projects. The first is entitled 'Legal Transplants and Policy Transfers, Legislating for Organ Donation in a Devolved UK' (British Academy/Leverhulme Trust) which is hosted between Cardiff and the Mason Institute, Edinburgh University. The project seeks to understand the legal, ethical and political reasons/ methods for the adoption of presumed consent organ donation in the devolved UK. Matthew has led on the literature review, and empirical study with key stakeholders in England and Wales. The second project, funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Fund, is entitled: 'Health Law and Ethics for Post-Primary Students in Wales.' The project is currently developing a number of Units on the ethics, law and politics (domestic and international) of health in Wales, for the new Welsh curriculum. Matthew has collaborated with a number of key stakeholders (Fitzalan High School, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff Council and Welsh Government) to produce and pilot resources and materials which will be rolled out throughout Wales.

Matthew completed his doctoral thesis in 2021, entitled: 'How doctor's make decisions about information disclosure: a moral diagnosis.' at Southampton University. The thesis, which was funded through the University of Southampton Law School Studentship, is composed of an indepth analysis of sociological studies on medical decision-making between 1950 to 2019, to identify the correlation and conflict between: standards of care in law, ethical guidance, models of informed consent and forms of the medical relationship; as the basis to identify and problematise decision-making in practice. 

Whilst writing his thesis, Matthew worked as a Research Associate on the AHRC funded project: 'Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law Project'' at the ICPR at Birkbeck College. Matthew conducted  indepth interviews with specialist practitioners and retired judges to ascertain how mental capacity law was understood, and how values were negotiated and utilised in the Court of Protection. Matthew has  recently published works from this project in the Medical Law Review, Legal Studies, the Journal of Law and Society, and the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law. 

During his PhD candidacy Matthew also taught Family Law: Children, Parents and the State, and Family Law: State Regulation Adults' Relationship Formation and Breakdown. Matthew is currently a part-time Lecturer at Bournemouth University in Healthcare and Family Law, and supervises a number of undergraduate law students in these areas. 

Matthew is a former committee member of the Postgraduate Bioethics Committee, and is a current member of the SLSA, SLS, IME and FLBA. Matthew is a Barrister (unregistered), and a member of Lincoln's Inn. 


  • M. Watkins, ‘Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust v AB [2020] EWCOP 40: Mental Capacity and the Anorexic Patient in the Court of Protection: Understanding Values, Framing Matters and Specification of the Declaration.’ (2022) 30(2) Medical Law Review 364-379
  • C. Kong, R. Stickler, M. Watkins, M. Dunn ‘Mental capacity law as a “human jurisdiction”: empirical findings from the Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law Project.’(2022) Legal Studies
  • C. Kong, P. Sticker, P. Cooper, M. Watkins & M. Dunn, 'Justifying and Practicing Effective Participation in the Court of Protection: An Empirical Study.' (2022) Journal of Law and Society 1-20
  • M. Watkins & P. Cooper, R. Stickler ‘Participation in the Court of Protection: A search for Purpose’ (2022) International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (accepted)
  • M. Watkins & J. Harrington, 'Beyond Demoralisation: Grounding Medical Law in Social Practice and Tradition.' (In progress)
  • M. Watkins & E. Redrup, 'The Definition of Paediatric Death in Legal Limbo.' (in progress)


In 2014, I was called to the Bar at Lincolns Inn. Between 2012 and 2016, I worked for a range of organisations including a leading London solicitors firm, Serious Fraud Office, a Local Authority, the National Centre for Domestic Violence and Free Representation Unit in London. During this time I gained extensive experience in litigation, particularly in relation to Family, Criminal and Public law matters.

In 2016 I was awarded the University of Southampton Law Studentship to understake my PhD in Medical Law. During my candidacy, I undertook MSc modules in Qualitative and Quantiative Methods, Research Design and Survey Design, and have undertaken training in specialist software, including: SPSS, NVivo and Atlas.ti. My PhD was supervised by Professor Hazel Biggs, (and at various times: Dr Adrain Viens, Dr Caroline Jones, Dr Natasha Hammond-Browning, Professor Remi Nwabueze and Dr Claire Lougarre) and explored the impact of various models of law and ethical guidance on medical practice, in relation to information disclosure. 

Since completing my PhD have worked in a number of roles for Cardiff University, as a Research Associate, a Postdoctoral Research Associate, and I have recently won a ESRC Fellowship to produce my monograph, and to undertake further work on how doctors made decisions about information disclosure, and informed consent during the Covid-19 crisis. 

Honours and awards

  • ESRC DTP Postdoctoral Fellowship (Socio-Legal Studies), 2022
  • ESRC IAA, named PDRA application by Professor John Harrington (Lead) and Dr Barbara Hughes-Moore (Cardiff University), 2022
  • Welcome Trust, Research Enrichment Grant, Postgraduate Bioethics Network, 2021
  • British Academy, named PDRA on application with Professor John Harrington (Cardiff University), Professor Anne-Maree Farrell, (Edinburgh University), “Legal Transplants and Policy Transfers: Legislating for Organ Donation in a Devolved UK.”, 2021
  • Welcome Trust, Small Grants in Humanities and Social Science: Postgraduate Bioethics Committee, 2019
  • Welcome Trust, Small Grant in Humanities and Social Science: Postgraduate Bioethics Committee, 2017
  • University of Southampton Law School Studentship, 2016

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Socio-Legal Studies Association 
  • Member of the Society of Legal Scholars
  • Member of the Institute of Medical Ethics
  • ECR Network Learned Society of Wales
  • Family Law Bar Association

Academic positions

  • Academic Tutor in Family Law, University of Southampton, 2016-2019
  • Research Assistant, HEAL Southampton, University of Southampton, 2018
  • Research Assistant, Judging Values Project, Birkbeck College, 2019-2021
  • Research Associate, Health Law in Wales Project, Cardiff University, 2021
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Legal Transplants and Policy Transfers Project, Cardiff University, 2021-Present 
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, HEAL: Post-primary Primary Students in Wales, Cardiff University, 2021 - Present
  • Postdoctoral Fellowhship in Socio-Legal Studies, Cardiff University, September 2022 - 

Speaking engagements

  • M. Watkins & J. Harrington, ‘Beyond Demoralisation: Grounding Medical Law in Social Practice and Tradition.’ (September 2022), SLS (Accepted)
  • J. Harrington, A-M. Farrell, M. Watkins, R. Reed-Berendt, ‘Legal Transplantations: Exploring the Development of Organ Donation legislation between devolved governments and the UK.’ (April, 2022), SLSA Panel
  • M. Watkins, ‘Confusing the purpose of the medical relationship in Law: a return to beneficence-in-trust as the basis of Medicine.’ (10th November 2021), IME Seminar Series
  • J. Harrington & M. Watkins, ‘The growing need to recognise distinct health values as a basis for ‘Welsh’ Health Law.’ (September, 2021), Public Law Wales
  • M. Watkins & P. Cooper, ‘The missing voice in the Court of Protection: 3-Dimensions of Participation in Health and Welfare Cases.” (September, 2021) SLS, Durham University
  • R. Stickler, , K. Kong, J. Coggon, P. Cooper, M. Dunn, M. Watkins ‘Section 4 in practice: best, substituted or a ‘subtly blended perspective’?’ (March 2021) SLSA [Online]
  • M. Watkins & R. Stickler, ‘Best interests beyond the law: unwritten judicial decision-making in the time of Covid-19.’ (June 2020), Mental Diversity Law Network
  • M. Watkins, ’Confusing the purpose of the medical relationship in Law: a return to beneficence-in-trust as the basis of Medicine.’ (2020/21) IME Conference 2020/21
  • M. Watkins, ‘Consent to organ donation in Wales: unjustifiable intergenerational inequality?’ (2019) Paper given at the Postgraduate Bioethics Conference 2019, Swansea University.
  • M. Watkins, ‘Rationalising the Autonomy in Montgomery: clarifying the legal standard of care in information disclosure.’ (2019) Paper given at the SLSA Conference 2019, Leeds University.
  • M. Watkins, ‘The evolution of the doctor-patient relationship in the law of consent: can Montgomery’s bigamous relationship work?’ (2019) Paper given at HEAL Research Group Seminar Series 2019, University of Southampton
  • M. Watkins, ‘A model of medical-decision making for information disclosure: a bioethical foundation in Autonomy.’ (2018) Poster Presentation at SLSA 2018, Bristol University.
  • M. Watkins, ‘Putting the ‘Informed’ in Consent.’ (2017) University of Winchester.
  • H. Biggs, M. Watkins & K. Hunt, ‘Planning Ahead: LGBT issues at the end of life.’ (2017) Paper given at PULSE Network (for Medical and Academic Staff), University of Southampton
  • M. Watkins, ‘One for all and all for one: how has the law of medical negligence attempted to regulate medical decision-making in informed consent?’ (2017) Paper at Postgraduate Bioethics Conference 2017, St Catherine’s College, Oxford University.

Committees and reviewing

  • Peer Review, Medical Law Review
  • Peer Review, Healthcare Analysis
  • Former Editor in Chief of the Southampton Student Law Review

Matthew’s interests lie in health law and bioethics (particularly virtue ethics). He has a special interest in the development and delineation of law and medical ethics in the devolved contexts, particularly in the law of informed consent, mental capacity law, organ donation and transplantation, death and dying, and reproductive and children's rights.

Matthew’s research tends to focus on the inter-relationship between law, ethics and morality in various legal and political forums, to delineate how normative regimes manifest - create gaps and problemitisations in practice. Matthew has expertise in the use of various qualitative socio-legal methodologies and empirical bioethics (and wishes opportunities to extend his work into areas of experimental ethnography).

Matthew has a passion for teaching, and has continued to grow his experience in several core and optional modules on the LLB syllabus, at various institutions. Matthew has applied his pedagodical expertise in a recent project - where he has co-produced teching resources, guidance and materials for the new KS4 curriculum in Wales. 


External profiles

Research links