I’m a law lecturer at Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney. I am also a member of Sydney Health Law, a centre focused on the governance and ethics of health within Sydney Law School (see below).
My research focus is the regulation of therapeutic goods and the legal and administrative oversight of medical practice, including psychiatry, in Australia and globally. While bioethics intrinsically forms an important aspect of this work, my focus is more acutely on the ‘biopolitics’ and governance of biomedicine — the ethics of biomedicine ‘at law.’ Medical negligence and psychiatry in legal history are also key interests.
I also have played a role in welfare law, including throughout the so-called robodebt period and subsequently. I maintain a blog on current legal issues in social security and welfare law at https://welfare.substack.com/ and maintain collaborative links with other administrative law academics in this area throughout Australia.
I work with several collaborators across the health sciences as an expert on health and regulatory affairs, including professors of nanomedicine at Sydney Nano Institute (including on emerging treatments in extracellular vesicles) medical practitioners, health ethicists, and health policymakers at the Sydney Policy Lab.
I was formerly managing editor of Philament Journal and am the production editor of the Australasian Journal of American Studies.
My publications list may be viewed on my ORCID profile at https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6629-8485.
Sydney Health Law (October 2023). L to R: Prof Roger Magnusson, Dr Yixian Li, Prof Cameron Stewart, Dr Belinda Reeve, Dr Olugbenga Olatunji, and Dr Christopher Rudge. See sydneyhealthlaw.com.
I teach Torts (civil wrongs including trespasses and negligence) to undergraduate students (LLB/JD), and two intensive courses for LLM and other master’s students: Mental Illness: Law and Policy, and Information Rights in Health Care. I also teach into several extramural program in conjunction with Sydney Health Law, Sydney Health Ethics and Praxis Australia, including a course on mental illness law to local health districts, and a course on health privacy and confidentiality for researchers and medical practitioners who are members of human research and ethics committees (HRECs).
From 2019 to 2021, I was postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience (now the Department of Anatomy and Physiology) in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne. There I was supervised by Professor Megan Munsie, an internationally recognised leader in stem cell research and Deputy Director of the Centre for Stem Cell Systems. I conducted research alongside stem cell scientists working in the Wells laboratory, headed by Professor Christine Wells. With Professor Munsie, research was undertaken on the regulation and governance of autologous stem cell therapies (and associated devices and standards) in Australia and globally.
In 2021, I undertook a second postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for Law and Genetics, University of Tasmania. My supervisor was Distinguished Professor Diane Nicol, Chair of the NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee and Director of the Centre for Law and Genetics. Professor Nicol’s academic training both as a scientist (with a PhD on cell and developmental biology) and a legal scholar (with an LLM in patenting biological materials) enabled me to conduct in-depth, supervised research into the regulation of genomic science, including the way certain technologies affecting germline and somatic cell mechanics are understood and can be regulated. For instance, an original book chapter on the history of the development of genome editing and somatic cell therapy, and it bioethical dimensions, arose out of this project.
The significant project undertaken during that fellowship was called Genome Editing: Formulating an Australian Community Response. With a broad range of academics from the Australian National University, including world leaders in deliberative democracy Profs John Dryzek, Simon Niemeyer (from the Centre for Deliberative Democracy), our team ran the world’s first citizens jury on genome editing. See the archived website for the Australian Citizens’ Jury on Genome Editing or media reporting about the project here. Our final report is here: Genome Editing: Formulating an Australian Community Response Report to Decision Makers, Stakeholders and Members of the Public.
Before I took up the above fellowships, in 2018, I conducted a major review of the scope of disciplinary powers for the Medical Council of NSW. the relevant health practitioner law allows the regulator to immediately suspend or impose conditions on medical practitioners in the public interest of where there are risks to patients and the public health. Composed over some 12 months, my 210-page report supplied Council with tools and insights with which to discharge their duty to act in accordance with the statutory scheme.
I hold degrees in Arts (Honours I) and Law (Sydney), and a PhD in the social history and literature of medicine (Sydney).
Conferred in 2015, my PhD thesis developed a novel theory of authorship based on a model of the posthuman subject as molecular and microbial. It examined various literary and essayistic representations of psychosis with reference to contemporary psychiatric and molecular models of mind disorder.
One of the thesis’s central arguments was that in many historical representations of mind disorder — including the essays and fiction of authors Aldous Huxley, Herman Melville, and Philip K. Dick — there emerges a series of consistent letimotifs, figures, or imagines. In the thesis, I called these leitmotifs “psychotropes.” I made the claim that much of the diagnostic and taxonomic data in psychiatry emerged in collaboration with these psychotropes of mind disorder. In turn, psychiatry generated a worldview of mental harm and illness that remains firmly enmeshed in the symbolic ideas that preceded it.
Personal biography and background
I am married to Camilla and we live with our wonderful son Dante (b 25 February, 2023) and our Burmese cat, Figaro (b 12 December, 2021), in Sydney’s Inner West.
A spot of genealogy
On the paternal side, my 2nd great grandfather was George Henry Rudge (b 1814), a convict who was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation for stealing two rabbits in Tewkesbury, a medieval market town and civil parish in the north of Gloucestershire, when he was just seventeen years old. George Henry Rudge was freed in 1840. He is pictured below (bottom right).
George Henry had several children, including a son named William and another named George (my great grandfather). William built a house in Burrawang, near Bowral (pictured below) in around the 1880s. It was called Hawthorn and still stands today.
My great grandfather, George Rudge, was the licensee at several hotels, including the Commercial Hotel in Taralga (c 1895-1903) and the Kenmore Hotel in Goulburn (1903-1906).
George Rudge was killed in a serious horse-riding accident in 1907, leaving his wife Julia Agnes Rudge (nee Madden) to parent their 7 children, one of whom was my grandfather, John Roy Sylvester Rudge. Julia became the hostess and licensee of the Tatersall’s Hotel in Cobar (later known as the Court House Hotel).
My grandfather, John Roy Sylvester Rudge (b 1897), who had been living in the Tatersall’s Hotel with his mother and 6 siblings, decided to go to the front in the First World War as a seventeen-year-old in around 1916. Unfortunately he was badly gassed — twice — and never really recovered. However, he did survive the war, and married my grandmother, Anne Mackey, in 1940, when he was 43 and Anne was 26. They had a son, John, my father, in 1945. John Roy Sylvester was licensee of the St James Hotel in Sydney from 1953 until around 1960. He passed away from injuries relating to expsore to mustard gas in 1963. Anne lived to 90 and passed away in 2013.
My maternal geneaology (McLaren) is Canadian and English. I maintain a public family tree on Ancestry.com here.