Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Wrongdoing and responsibility in the context of cumulative harms: a response to commentators
  1. Katrina Hutchison
  1. Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katrina Hutchison, Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia; katrina.hutchison{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Let me first thank Samantha Brennan, Carolyn McLeod and Brandi Braud Scully for their detailed and constructive commentaries. In this brief response I wish to highlight and engage with three main points they raise. First, I will address McLeod’s argument that female surgeons are not merely harmed, but also wronged by the forms of bias found in the study. Second, I will discuss a concern voiced by both Scully and Brennan that my emphasis on small and implicit biases fails to acknowledge the ongoing, significant problem of explicit bias. Third, and finally, I will engage with Brennan’s argument that institutional responses are the best way of addressing cumulative harms caused by microinequities. These concerns all connect with the difficult question of responsibility, a feature I draw out below.

Carolyn McLeod argues that female surgeons’ interests in receiving equal treatment and opportunity are morally significant interests. As such, when these interests are set back by cumulative small biases the female surgeons are morally wronged. Moreover, she says, ‘it’s also hard to see how setting them back in this context could possibly be justified.’ McLeod is right to press me on this issue. In the article I have skirted around …

View Full Text


  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you