About the Division of Philosophy and Ethics of Mental Health 

Message from the Director

The Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Health Sciences brings together and mobilise scholars and postgraduate students at UP across various departments and faculties and in collaboration with international counter parts.


We at CEPHS espouse a key orientation of being person- and people-centred in the sense of the African ethic ubuntu, which principally refers to an interconnectedness of people. This orientation guides the operations of the Centre as an expression of commitment to people in their individual and communitarian capacities. This batho pele orientation is particularly important considering technological and scientific advances that may easily displace a commitment to people with a narrower interest in diseases, disease processes, bodily features, or the diagnostic and treatment offerings of technology. This orientation, furthermore, underscores the African locality of the Centre and resonates well with the professional and scientific developments internationally to make health practice and services more person- and people-centred.

A diverse approach to health ethics

CEPHS is guided by the need and affordances of conceptual work and philosophy in approaching health ethics. Accordingly, an inclusive and theoretically diverse approach to health ethics is advocated rather the narrower and popular focus on bioethics as expressed in the principles of respect for personal autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and distributive justice – important as these principles are nonetheless. A diverse approach to health ethics draws on the substantive theories of ethics more generally than health ethics including deontology, utilitarianism, communitarianism, liberal individualism and virtue (including care-based) ethics. From health ethics specifically, it draws on principlism, casuistry, perspectivism and values-based practice. Conceptual analysis is recognised for the clarity that it may bring to ethical issues.

Furthermore, health ethics is recognised in the full scope of health, thus inclusive of clinical ethics, research ethics, professional ethics and relevant to all areas of health including clinical assessment and diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, teaching and training, organisational and institutional management, and policy making.

Conceptual work towards scholarly clarity in health sciences, health practice and health education

CEPHS is furthermore guided by the need and affordances of conceptual work and philosophy in approaching health practice, health science and health education. Much scholarly sophistication in the field of health is gained from ongoing quantitative and qualitative research, but the reach of these methods is limited in addressing conceptual relations and the soundness of reasoning. Conceptual work by the CEPHS seeks to bring clarity regarding the strengths and limitations of various health research methodologies, as well as the values aspect of decision-making in clinical, research and educational contexts. CEPHS draws on the discipline of philosophy, particularly philosophy of science, axiology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and phenomenology.


About the Director

Werdie (C.W.) van Staden is professor of philosophy and psychiatry, and director of the Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Heath Sciences at the University of Pretoria. His clinical attachment is as honorary psychiatrist at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, Pretoria.

Following his training as physician (MBChB) and specialisation in psychiatry cum laude (MMed(Psych)) at the University of Pretoria, he continued his clinical training in the United Kingdom in general adult psychiatry, psychotherapy and learning disabilities. He pursued formal study in philosophy at the University of Warwick (UK) resulting in a research doctorate in philosophy. He is a fellow of the College of Psychiatrists of the South African Colleges of Medicine.

He has published about a 100 articles in medical and philosophy journals and books. He contributed to and co-edited with Professors John Sadler (Texas) and Bill Fulford (Oxford) the Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Ethics, published in 2015, which is the most comprehensive book in the field consisting of 94 chapters to which 140 international authors contributed. He also co-edited the book titled International Perspectives on Values-based Mental Health (2021). He had been the editor-in-chief of the South African Journal of Psychiatry for 11 years until 2017, is senior editor of the international journal Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology, co-editor of the International Journal of Person-Centered Medicine, and managing editor of Philosophy, Ethics & Humanities in Medicine.

He chairs the World Psychiatric Association’s Section for Philosophy and Humanities in Psychiatry, serves on the Steering Committee of the International Network for Philosophy & Psychiatry consisting of 43 national associations, is the honorary secretary of the World Psychiatric Association’s Section for Classification, Diagnostic Assessment and Nomenclature, and serves on the Board of the International College of Person-Centered Medicine.

He has been plenary speaker at many international conferences and lectured on invitation at the University of Oxford, University of Warwick, King’s College in London, and the University of Geneve. He has served on many scientific committees of international and national conferences, and chaired the organising and scientific committees of the 10th International Conference for Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology held in 2007 in South Africa. In 2006, he convened the national congress of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP).

He is the chairperson of the Faculty of Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee at the University of Pretoria. He founded and directs master’s and doctorate degree programmes in Philosophy & Ethics of Mental Health.

He also studied music at the University of South Africa (Unisa) and the Trinity College of Music (London), achieving qualifications up to a master’s degree level. He is principal flautist for the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra and his compositions include two symphonies, a flute and cello concerto, and other chamber and choir works. His compositions have been performed by the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra and the Teatro Del Lago Choir at the opening of an international scientific conference in Chili.

For his CV, click here


About the Deputy Director

Theresa Rossouw is a professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Pretoria (UP). She is a clinician scientist and has a double PhD, one in Immunology and one in Philosophy. She is an NRF-rated scientist and mainly works in the field of HIV and related infections where she is specifically interested in HIV-associated drug resistance and systemic immune activation. She is a member of the World Health Organization’s Research and Innovation Working Group, HIVResNet, as well as various scientific committees, including the Southern African HIV Clinician Society. She chairs the Research Ethics Committee (REC) of the Human Sciences Research Council and is a deputy-chairperson of the Faculty of Health Sciences REC at UP. She is currently involved in studies assessing outcomes of HIV exposed uninfected children as well as investigating differences in the clinical and immunological profiles of HIV-infected and -uninfected patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

For her CV, click here



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