Project Timeline

The Essex Autonomy Project was founded as a research and knowledge exchange initiative in 2010. We started out with the aim of clarifying the ideal of self-determination in history, theory and practice, but have expanded to consider mental health and human rights law, decision-making capacity, insight into illness, and objectivity in care practices. We work with lawyers, psychiatrists, social care practitioners and policy-makers. Our timeline shows key moments in the growth of the project, which continues to evolve.

9th August 2023

2023 Autonomy Summer School

View details, including programme, here.

19th July 2022

2022 Autonomy Summer School

View details, including the programme, here.

25th November 2021

British Council (Singapore): EAP Director delivers public lecture

Professor Wayne Martin delivers a public lecture of the ethics of triage as part of the British Council GREAT Lectures series.

20th July 2021

2021 Autonomy Project Summer School

View the details, including the programme, here.

12th July 2021

The team has published a survey report, summarising the findings from the online survey. Read the report here. (Revised 11 October 2021)
1st August 2021


Wayne Martin and Angela Rhodes, Deputy General Manager at Woodleigh House Care Home, Healey Care Ltd., spoke to Victoria Tischler about the impact of Covid-19 on care homes for the Pandemic and Beyond Podcast. 

Listen to the episode here. 


17th May 2021

Blog post: Human Rights and Triage

Dr Vivek Bhatt has published a blog post discussing human rights and triage on the Pandemic & Beyond website. Read the post here.

7th May 2021

Blog post: COVID Passports and Human Rights

Dr Vivek Bhatt has published a blog post on Opinio Juris, discussing COVID passports and human rights. Read the post here.

17th April 2021

Publication in the Journal of Medical Ethics

The EAP research team, with Dr Vivek Bhatt as the lead author, has published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled 'Human rights and COVID-19 triage: a comment on the Bath protocol'.

You can read the article here.

29th March 2021

Publication in The Conversation

Margot Kuylen and Wayne Martin published a short article in The Conversation, putting into context the (mis)use of DNACPR orders during the pandemic. Read the article here.

22nd March 2021

Better Human podcast: The difficult case of Vaccine Passports

Wayne Martin and Judith Bueno de Mesquita joined Better Human podcast host Adam Wagner to discuss the ethical and human rights implications of Covid Status Certifications ("Vaccine Passports"). Listen to the podcast.

4th March 2021

Presentation at Switalskis MCA Webinar Series

Wayne Martin has presented on 'Liberty, Proportionality and Human Rights in Locked-Down Care Homes' at the Switalskis MCA Webinar Series 2021. A recording of the Webinar is available here.

3rd March 2021

Launched: Online survey for care professionals

The Essex Autonomy Project launched an anonymous online survey aimed at care professionals who worked in or with care homes during the pandemic. For more information and to take the survey, click here.

The survey is part of the AHRC-funded Human Rights in Care Homes project.

27th December 2020

Publication: Discrimination, Triage, and Denial-of-Treatment during COVID-19

Wayne Martin has published a book chapter, entitled 'Discrimination, Triage and Denial-of-Treatment: Lessons from COVID-19 in the UK', in the anthology Tackling Torture: Victims from Disabilities in the COVID-19 Outbreak. 

2nd November 2020

New Project: Human Rights in Care Homes

Professor Wayne Martin and Professor Sabine Michalowski secured AHRC-funding for a research project investigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on respect for human rights in care homes. The aim of the project is to improve the protection of human rights in care homes, using the impact of Covid-19 as a case study.

More information can be found here.

20th July 2020

2020 Autonomy Summer School: 10 years of the Autonomy Project

Our 2020 Autonomy Project Summer School took place online on the 20th-24th July. Visit our Summer School page for more details about the 2021 Summer School.

1st April 2020

COVID-19 Rapid Response Webinars

The Essex Autonomy project hosted the first of a series of Rapid Response Webinars in collaboration with the National Mental Capacity Forum.

Recording of all Webinars and information about upcoming webinars can be found here.

1st April 2020

10th Anniversary of the Autonomy Project!

8th January 2020

Briefing to the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Wayne Martin presents a briefing to the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the neglect of sec 1(3) of the Mental Capacity Act.


11th July 2019

EAP Summer School 2019

The Essex Autonomy Project hosted its 9th Summer School, which was entitled 'All Change Please?" and focused on the challenges of embedding human rights protections in 21st-century care practices.

8th April 2019

EAP Director delivers training to Court of Protection judges

Professor Martin delivers Judicial College training: Tailoring Support for Decision-Making.

12th July 2018

EAP Summer School 2018

The Essex Autonomy Project hosted the 8th Summer School, which focused on 'Powerlessness, vulnerability and the challenges of care'.

5th June 2018

EAP Director shortlisted for 2018 Health Humanities Medal

Professor Wayne Martin has been shortlisted in the ‘Best Research’ category for the 2018 Health Humanities Medal. The competition is run by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), in association with The Wellcome Trust. It champions the application of the arts and humanities in interdisciplinary research, education and social action to inform and transform health and social care, health, and/or wellbeing.

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1st May 2018

EAP Public Policy Lab findings feed into new briefing on 'The future of the Mental Health Act'

The Mental Health and Justice project, for which EAP is leading a work stream on Insight and Objectivity, has contributed to a new briefing report on the future of the Mental Health Act from The Policy Institute at King's. The Public Policy Lab on 'Objectivity and Evidence in the Assessment of Mental Capacity' hosted by EAP team members in February fed directly into this report - particularly its proposal that the future of the MHA should be shaped by a greater emphasis on the ability of people to make their own decisions about care and treatment.

16th February 2018

Public Policy Lab: 'Objectivity and Evidence in the Assessment of Mental Capacity'

As part of our work on the Wellcome Trust funded Mental Health and Justice project, EAP team members were involved in planning and hosting the first MHJ Public Policy Lab in London. The topic of this Lab was the objectivity of assessments of decision-making capacity. The aim of the Lab was both to share preliminary research findings from the project and to engage the broader policy and practice community in developing the research further.



6th July 2017

EAP Summer School 2017

The Essex Autonomy Project hosted its 7th Summer School, which focused on 'Objectivity, Risk and Powerlessness in Care Practices '.

1st January 2017

Wellcome Trust award for the EAP

The EAP was awarded a five year grant from the Wellcome Trust to investigate insight and objectivity in mental health care. The project is part of a large multi-million pound collaborative investment from Wellcome under the heading of Mental Health and Justice.


9th July 2016

EAP Summer School 2016

The Essex Autonomy Project hosted its 6th Summer School, which focused on 'Autonomy in Care Practice'.

6th June 2016

EAP releases new report: 'Towards Compliance with CRPD Art. 12 in Capacity/Incapacity Legislation across the UK'

This report was the culmination of the 'Three Jurisdictions Project', for which the EAP received funding in 2015 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, to investigate compliance with the CRPD in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The report assesses the extent to which existing legislation across the three jurisdictions of the UK complies with the requirements of the CRPD Art. 12, identifies areas in which statutory arrangements in the UK still fall short of compliance with Art. 12, and makes a series of recommendations for how these areas of non-compliance can be remedied.

The report has been cited in law reform initiatives in Peru and Scotland, and the research underpinning it formed the basis of a side event at the 15h session of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee in Geneva in March 2016.

12th May 2016

Conference: UK Engagement with the UNCRPD: A Three Jurisdictions Approach

This conference presented the findings of the AHRC and ESRC funded project investigating UK compliance with the UNCRPD. The conference was opened by Sandra McDonald, the Public Guardian for Scotland, and considered issues around the current situation in the UK and support for operationalising Article 12.4 safeguards.

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31st March 2016

EAP hosts side-event at the UN

The EAP hosted a side-event to the 15th Session of the meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The event held in Geneva looked at Operationalising Article 12.4 Safeguards: Lessons from Three Jurisdictions of the UK.

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3rd December 2015

Essex Autonomy Project 'highly commended' by the Times Higher

The Essex Autonomy Project was short-listed for 'Research Project of the Year' and although we didn't win, the project was highly commended as an example of outstanding research.

The Times Higher Education Award

25th August 2015

AHRC and ESRC award to investigate UNCPRD compliance

The EAP was commissioned by the ARHC and the ESRC to provide technical support to the UK government in preparation for the upcoming UN review of UK compliance with the CRPD. The 'Three Jurisdictions' project looked at compliance with the CRPD in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The project was a collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University, TC Young Solicitors, 39 Essex Chambers, the Mental Health Foundation and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

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6th July 2015

EAP Summer School 2015

The Essex Autonomy Project hosted its 5th Summer School.

29th June 2015

EAP gives evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly

Wayne Martin was invited to give evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly,  Ad hoc Joint Committee on the Mental Capacity Bill. As part of a round-table discussion, Wayne and other international experts were  invited to critique the draft Mental Capacity Bill currently being considered by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The minutes of the discussion can be found here.


23rd April 2015

Conference: Autonomy and the End of Life

Part of the University of Essex 50th Anniversary year, the EAP hosted a conference on the philosophical and ethical implications of end of life decisions, whether we have a right to autonomy in the process of dying and what we can learn from previous cases of autonomy and the end of life.


21st April 2015

Practitioner Workshop: Autonomy at the End of Life

Part of the University of Essex 50th Anniversary year, the EAP led a workshop specifically for health and social care practitioners on issues around end of life care. The day covered recent legal history concerning end of life decisions, the challenges of assessing capacity in serious depression and after brain injury and the challenges of risk assessment.

Essex Autonomy Project Summer School

1st September 2014

EAP releases new report: 'Achieving CRPD Compliance: Is the Mental Capacity Act of England and Wales compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? If not, what next?''

This report was the culmination of the AHRC-funded project EAP undertook to advise the Ministry of Justice as part of an ongoing review of whether the Mental Capacity Act is compliant with the UNCPRD.

The report found that the MCA was not fully compliant with the CRPD, in two respects: the definition of 'mental incapacity' it adopts violates the anti-discrimination provision of CRPD Art. 5, and the best-interests decision-making framework it employs fails to satisfy the requirements of CRPD Art. 12(4). The report made recommendations as top how this areas of non-compliance can be remedied. It also found that the UNCRPD is not correct in its claim that compliance with CRPD requires the abolition of substitute decision-making and the best-interest decision-making framework.

This report was submitted to the Ministry of Justice as part of their assessment of UK compliance with UNCRPD; it has also been cited as part of law reform initiatives in Scotland, and formed the basis of a visit by staff from a special Norwegian Commission that had been set up by the Norwegian Government to study CRPD compliance in Norway.

21st August 2014

EAP Summer School 2014

The Essex Autonomy Project hosted its 4th Summer School.

11th July 2014

Conference: Is the MCA Compliant with the UNCRPD? And if not, what next?

A one-day conference  held at the Institute for Government to debate the issues surrounding the Mental Capacity Act and whether it is compliant with the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability. Sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the conference discussed the challenges and opportunities of the UNCRPD, mental capacity and disability discrimination, conflicts of rights under the UNCRPD and service-user perspectives on best-interests decision making under the MCA.

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5th February 2014

EAP awarded new AHRC grant

The AHRC awarded funding to the EAP to provide advice to the Ministry of Justice as part of an ongoing review of whether the Mental Capacity Act is compliant with the UNCPRD.

The project 'Achieving CRPD Compliance- is the MCA of England and Wales compliant with the UNCRPD? And if not, what next?' brought together researchers, civil servants, judges and third-sector organisations to debate the issues around CRPD compliance.

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21st November 2013

IMCA Training Day

Working with Empowerment Matters, this one-day course was aimed specifically at Independent Mental Capacity Advocates and aimed to equip IMCAs with philosophical tools to help achieve effective advocacy and client representation.


19th September 2013

EAP present at the Inaugural Court of Protection Practitioners Association Conference

The first annual conference of the Court of Protection Practitioners Association took place in Manchester. The title of the conference was 'The Secret Court: Lifting the Veil on the Court of Protection'. Wayne Martin spoke on E and L and Wilgefortis: Autonomy and Mental Capacity at the End of Life. 


4th July 2013

EAP Autonomy Summer School 2013

Following on from two highly successful AHRC-funded Autonomy Summer Schools in 2011 and 2013, in July 2013 EAP hosted our first independent Autonomy Summer School.


15th March 2013

Conference: Defensible in Theory, Workable in Practice

This conference, held at the Institute of Philosophy, was the culmination of the EAP's initial AHRC-funded work. The conference considered whether there are conceptions of autonomy that are defensible in theory and workable in practice. Issues covered included philosophical disputes about theories of autonomy, developments in mental health and capacity law, and autonomy in the context of eating disorders.


6th September 2012

Second AHRC Autonomy Summer School

In September 2012, EAP hosted the second Autonomy Summer School funded by the EAP-AHRC partnership on "Contested Autonomy in Public Policy and Professional Practice."

18th May 2012

Workshop: Between Moral Failure and Psychopathology

Social welfare policies are driven by two apparently conflicting objectives: to satisfy unmet welfare need and to promote personal responsibility.  Reconciling both is a key challenge for the welfare state. This workshop assessed the theoretical adequacy and practical applicability of a ‘normative capacities’ approach to the public policy challenges in this arena.


20th April 2012

Workshop: Capacity Assessment: Ethical, Political and Metaphysical Issues

Mental capacity has become a central concept in social care and mental health services; yet disagreement persists over what capacity requires, how and when it is best assessed, and to what extent a person's mental incapacity can legitimise taking decisions on their behalf. This workshop brought together together psychiatrists, lawyers, social workers, philosophers, carers and representatives of advocacy groups to discuss mental capacity in law, practice and theory.


16th January 2012

AHRC Deprivation of Liberty and DoLS Roundtable

Hosted by the Medical Research Council, this Roundtable was chaired by Wayne Martin and Fabian Freyenhagen with invited participants discussing deprivation of liberty and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), including their performance in social care and psychiatry, their legal history, the implications of recent judgements, training needs, and their relation to wider care and mental health policy.

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25th November 2011

Workshop: Paternalism and Coercion

In theory and in practice, autonomy and paternalism are often understood to stand in a classic zero-sum relation:  more paternalism means less autonomy, and vice versa.  This raises the question of how best to strike the proper balance between the two.  But in some sense paternalism and autonomy seem to be capable of standing together, as when parents act to foster the autonomy of their children. This workshop facilitated an exchange of ideas across disciplinary boundaries to explore these and related issues.



30th September 2011

Conference: Was Autonomy the Wrong Ideal?

A key question for the Essex Autonomy Project is whether, and in what sense, autonomy is an appropriate ideal in human affairs. It is very often taken for granted that individual autonomy is a good worth pursuing, perhaps a very basic good. But at the same time it is clear that the ideal is contentious. This conference confronted the criticisms of autonomy and considered whether  autonomy can be a suitable ideal for finite, dependent, embodied creatures like ourselves.



28th September 2011

AHRC Autonomy Summer School covered by the Guardian

The AHRC Autonomy Summer School was featured in the GuardianProfessional, in a report focusing on the ethical and philosophical challenges faced by front-line practitioners. Summer School participants spoke to journalist Keith Cooper about the importance of training in philosophical issues and the impact the Summer School has had on their professional practice.


15th September 2011

First AHRC Autonomy Summer School

On 15-17 September 2011, EAP hosted the first AHRC Autonomy Summer School - a three-day event funded by the EAP-AHRC partnership on "Contested Autonomy in Public Policy and Professional Practice." The primary mission of the Summer School was  to provide a forum for continuing professional development of frontline professionals who must grapple with dilemmas associated with the ideal of individual autonomy in human affairs.

This event - along with the second AHRC-funded Summer School in 2012 - inaugurated the tradition of the annual EAP Autonomy Summer School, which has since been running every year.

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25th July 2011

AHRC Best Interests Public Policy Roundtable

The EAP participated in this Roundtable, hosted by the Ministry of Justice. The event was chaired by Wayne Martin and Fabian Freyenhagen, with invited participants discussing legal, ethical and policy questions concerning best-interests decisions, alongside broader issues of mental capacity

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20th May 2011

Workshop: Normative Neutrality and the Theory of Autonomy

This interdisciplinary workshop focused on the challenges of respecting autonomy whilst considering the legal, medical and social welfare environments that decisions are made in - environment which often have strong presumptions about what would be beneficial to individuals.

18th March 2011

Workshop: Understanding Others

Held at the Institute of Philosophy, London, this workshop brought together researchers and practitioners with expertise in phenomenology and psychiatry.  The workshop considered the theoretical basis for phenomenological investigation of the experiences of other people, how the techniques of clinical psychiatry can be integrated into the methods of phenomenology and how our understanding of particular psychiatric disorders could be enhanced through insights from the phenomenological tradition.

26th November 2010

Workshop: Consent at an Impasse

This workshop confronted some of the fundamental problems with the idea of consent in theory and in practice. The speakers included Phil Fennell (Cardiff Law School) on treatment without consent, Anne-Marie Slowther (Warwick Medical School) on the family's role in obtaining consent, Michael Brown (West Midlands Police Force) on police decision-making relating to criminal suspects with mental health issues and Sheldon Leader (University of Essex) on consent, freedom and futures.

17th November 2010

New EAP-AHRC Partnership

In November 2010, the Arts and Humanities Research Council approved a major expansion of its support for the Essex Autonomy Project. The new initiative established a partnership between the AHRC and EAP to expand research and knowledge-exchange activities on the theme: "Contested Autonomy in Public Policy and Professional Practice." The principle aims of the partnership were to launch an annual Autonomy Summer School to be held at the University of Essex, to support new research staff for the project, and to develop a 'road show' seminar and an EAP Distance Learning Hub. As part of the partnership, EAP and AHRC also jointly sponsored two Public Policy Seminars, held in Westminster in 2011 and 2012.

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4th September 2010

First international conference: The Vexed and Contentious History of Autonomy

This conference was held at the Institute of Philosophy, London, and included papers on Continuity in the History of Autonomy (Terence Irwin, Oxford), the Ethics of Freedom (Topm Pink, KLC), Appropriating Freedom: Freuds's Concept of Autonomy (Axel Honneth, Frankfurt), Autonomy as an End (Katerina Deligiori) and Reason's Form (Robert Pippin, Chicago).


21st May 2010

Inaugural Workshop: Autonomous Judgement - Challenges and Strategies

The first EAP workshop was held at the University of Essex. The workshop introduced the project and had presentations from guest speakers on topics including the clinical assessment of capacity, the law of consent, the MCA and the MHA, and philosophical models of autonomy.


1st April 2010

The Essex Autonomy Project Begins!

The Essex Autonomy Project started with a grant from the AHRC to investigate autonomous judgement in history, theory and practice. The project was initially funded for three years with the aim of investigating the ideal of self-determination in human affairs. The project was founded by Wayne Martin and Fabian Freyenhagen, with research support from Tom O'Shea, Antal Szerletics and Viv Ashley.

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