L. Syd M Johnson

L. Syd M Johnson


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  • Associate Professor of Philosophy, Humanities
  • Affiliate Associate Professor, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
  • PhD, University at Albany, State University of New York


Dr. L. Syd M. Johnson's work in neuroethics and bioethics focuses on the ethical implications of developments in neuroscience, particularly those related to disorders of consciousness and traumatic brain injury. She is especially interested in issues of quality of life related to "halfway technologies" that can result in partial recovery, but leave patients profoundly disabled. Her research focuses on whether these so-called improvements enhance quality of life for persons with disorders of consciousness, how we should conceptualize quality of life in persons who lack the capacity to communicate or evaluate their own quality of life, and whether our conception of medical progress is suitable for thinking about disorders of consciousness. Her second area of research is on sport-related concussion, particularly in youth athletes, and the ethical implications of risky sports participation for children. A third area of scholarly interest arises from Dr. Johnson's work as a film critic, and considers the way that philosophically interesting questions are represented in pop culture, as well as the pedagogical potential of cinematic thought experiments. Dr. Johnson's work has been published in Neuroethics, American Journal of Bioethics, AJOB Neuroscience, Journal of Medical Ethics, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Recent Publications

  • Fenton, Andrew and Johnson, LSM. The ethics of non-human primate research. Impact Ethics. (online 04.05.2016) Read More
  • Johnson, LSM. Inference and inductive risk in disorders of consciousness. AJOB Neuroscience 2016; 7:1 (35-43)
  • Johnson, LSM, Partridge, B. and Gilbert, F. "Framing the debate: Concussion and mTBI." Neuroethics 2015; 8(1):1-4.
  • Rommelfanger, KS and Johnson, LSM. "What lies ahead for neuroethics scholarship and education in light of the Human Brain Projects?" AJOB Neuroscience 2015; 6(1):1-3.
  • Johnson, LSM. "A legal fiction with real consequences." American Journal of Bioethics 2014; 14(8):34-36
  • Johnson, LSM. "Abortion II: Ethical Perspectives," in Bioethics, Ed. Bruce Jennings. Vol. 1. 4th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2014. p8-22
  • Johnson, LSM. "Breeders: A subclass of women?" by Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. IJFAB (International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics) 2014; 7(2):248-253
  • Johnson, LSM. 2014. "Sport-related neurotrauma and neuroprotection: Are Return-to-Play protocols justified by paternalism?" Neuroethics. DOI: 10.1007/s12152-014-9213-4
  • Johnson, LSM. "Needed: More honesty about death before donation." Impact Ethics. (May 2014) Read More
  • Johnson, LSM. "A pathway to reducing concussions in youth hockey." Concussion Litigation Reporter 2014; 2(9)
  • Johnson, LSM. "A tragic death, and a fight for life." Impact Ethics. Read More
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "Bioethicists as Public Advocates." Impact Ethics. (November 2013) Read More
  • “Can they suffer? The ethical priority of quality of life research in disorders of consciousness" in Bioethica Forum 2013; 6(4): 129-136.
  • "Abortion II: Contemporary Ethical and Legal Aspects: Ethical Perspectives" in Encyclopedia of Bioethics 4e. Ed. Jennings, Bruce. New York; Macmillan (in press).
  • (Co-authored with B Partridge) “Sports concussions and sandbagging” in Bioethics Forum. (2013). Read More
  • “Needed: Objective measures of subjective well-being” for NeuroEthics Women Leaders blog. (2013). Read More
  • “Stable value sets, psychological well-being, and the disability paradox: ramifications for assessing decision making capacity” in AJOB Neuroscience 2013; 4(4):24-25.
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "Return to play guidelines cannot solve the football-related concussion problem" in Journal of School Health 2011; 82 (4): 180-185.
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "The Ethically Dubious Practice of Thwarting the Redemption of the Condemned" in American Journal of Bioethics 2011; 11 (10): 9-10.
  • Gilbert, F., Johnson, L. Syd M., "The Impact of American Tackle Football-Related Concussion in Youth Athletes" in AJOB Neuroscience 2011; 2 (4): 48-59.


  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Moral status and the capacity for conscious suffering.” (poster) International Neuroethics Society Meeting. Washington, DC. November, 2014
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "Conscientious objection to brain death: Why reasonable accommodation is reasonable, necessary, and good public policy." American Society for Bioethics & Humanities Meeting, San Diego, CA, October 2014
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "Functional neuroimaging of Disorders of Consciousness: The ethical implications of where we are now, and where we’re going." Presenter and moderator. Panel session with Martin M. Monti, PhD (UCLA) and Adam Shriver, PhD (Penn). American Society for Bioethics & Humanities Meeting, San Diego, CA, October 2014
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Disorders of Consciousness and the ethics of uncertainty.” Measuring Borderline States of Consciousness Conference. Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness/Center for Bioethics. New York University, New York, NY. October, 2014
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Neuroethical issues of concussion and mTBI.” (lightning talk) Neuroethics Affinity Group Meeting, American Society for Bioethics & Humanities Meeting, San Diego, CA, October 2014
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Why we need to know what it’s like: The ethical priority of quality of life research in disorders of consciousness” poster at International Neuroethics Society Conference. San Diego, CA (November 2013).
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Unnecessary Roughness: Ethical considerations in sport-related neurotrauma, sports participation, and consent” at American Society for Bioethics & Humanities, Atlanta, GA. (October 2013).
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Why we need to know what it’s like: The ethical priority of quality of life research in disorders of consciousness” at Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference, Kalamazoo, MI. (September 2013).
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., “Saying what no one else will say: The bioethicist as translator, interpreter, and advocate in the public sphere” at American Society for Bioethics & Humanities, Washington DC (October 2012).
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "Should youth hockey be safer?" at Cafe Scientifique, Novel Tech Ethics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Oral. (November 21, 2011).
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "The case for innovation in vaccine production" at Canadian Bioethics Society Conference, Canadian Bioethics Society, St John, NB, Oral. (June 2011).
  • Johnson, L. Syd M., "Mapping a way around the authenticity detour: cognitive enhancement, cognitive mapping, and extended cognition" at Philosophy Colloquium, Dalhousie University Philosophy Dept, Halifax, NS, Oral. (April 2011).

Research Areas

  • Neuroethics: Disorders of Consciousness
  • Neuroethics: Sport-Related Concussion
  • Research ethics

Teaching Areas

  • Ethics
  • Applied Ethics
  • Bioethics
  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Early Modern Philosophy