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Colin Thomson AM

Colin Thomson AM

Former Professor of Health Law and Ethics at the University of Wollongong


Colin Thomson AM is a former Professor and Academic Leader for Health Law and Ethics in Graduate Medicine, Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong. He has previously held positions at the Faculty of Law, Australian National University and the Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong.

In 1983, he introduced the second Australian university course on law and medicine, at the Australian National University, and has since taught health law and ethics to graduate students at the University of Wollongong and conducted numerous on-site teaching sessions in health law and ethics for health professionals in ACT and NSW hospitals.

He was a member of the Medical Research Ethics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)(1988-1991) and a member (1998-2002) and chair (2006-2009) of the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC). He has also been Consultant in Health Ethics to the NHMRC (2002-2006).

He was a member of the working parties for both the 1999 and 2007 versions of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, Executive Editor of the Human Research Ethics Handbook (2000) and chair of the National Ethics Application Form working party.

He has been a member and chair of HRECs at ACT Health, Australian National University, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, University of Wollongong/Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health District, Hunter New England Local Health District, Commonwealth Scientific and Research Industrial Organisation, Commonwealth Department of Health, Departments of Defence and of Veterans Affairs.

He has been Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Health, Law and Ethics and Vice-President of the Australasian Bioethics Association – now combined as the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law and is Secretary for the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd

In the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Colin Thomson was recognised with an award of Member of the Order of Australia.


The design and implementation, for the NHMRC, of a national training program for members of human research ethics committees, a one-day program repeated more than 20 times throughout Australia.

The design and conduct of induction and further education workshops for HREC members for Charles Sturt University, the Cancer Council of NSW, UnitingCare, Australian Red Cross Blood Service and Queensland Health.

Presentations on national research and ethics governance structures, on research ethics committees, on genetics and human tissue research with representatives from University College, London and the Nuffield Council for Bioethics of the UK, to a training seminar for the Mauritius Research Council.

A study, for NSW Health, of the review of multi-centre research studies by key NSW HRECs.

The development of standards for the accreditation of “lead HRECs” for NSW Health.

The development of ethical guidelines for the conduct of research involving children in care, for NSW DoCS.

Reviews of the human and animal research ethics systems in Tasmania.

A report on developing best practice in human research ethics review for the Consultative Committee on Human Research Ethics of Victoria.

For the NHMRC’s National Approach. the conduct of assessments of institutional systems of human research ethics seeking certification.

A review of research governance procedures at Western Sydney Local Health District.

Chairing an independent external research misconduct inquiry for a major Australian university.



  • National human research ethics guidelines
  • National human research ethics governance systems and structures
  • Confidentiality and privacy in human research
  • Legal aspects of human research
  • Training in human research ethics of researchers and ethics committee members



Breen, K and Cordner Thomson, CJH, S Good Medical Practice: professionalism, ethics and law (4th Edition), Australian Medical Council (2016)

Articles in Refereed Journals

Pieper, Ian & Thomson, Colin J. H.  Beneficence as a principle in human research, Monash Bioethics review (2016) 34: 117-135

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H. The value of respect in human research ethics: a conceptual analysis and a practical guide Monash Bioethics Review, ISSN 1321-2753, 12/14 Volume 32, Issue 3-4, p. 232

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H., Justice in human research ethics Monash bioethics review, ISSN 1321-2753, 03/2013, Volume 31, Issue 1, p. 99

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H. Contextualising merit and integrity within human research, Monash bioethics review, ISSN 1321-2753, 09/2011, Volume 29, Issue 4, p. 15.1

Xafis, V; Thomson, C; Braunack-Mayer, A J; Duszynski, K M; Gold, M S, Legal impediments to data linkage, Journal of law and medicine, ISSN 1320-159X, 12/2011, Volume 19, Issue 2, p. 300

Thomson, CJH Protecting health information privacy in research: what’s an ethics committee like you doing in a job like this?” (2006) 13 Journal of Law and Medicine 304 – 310

Monitoring medical research conduct: why, how and by whom? Internal Medicine Journal, 36 (2006) 69-71

Dodds, S & Thomson, C, Bioethics And Democracy: Competing Roles Of National Bioethics Organisations, Bioethics, 2006, 20(3), 326-338.

Thomson, CJH Protecting health information privacy in research: how much law do Australians need?, Medical Journal of Australia, 19 September 2005, Volume 183, No 6, p. 315

Thomson, CJH Research, Records and Access: What Interests Should Outweigh Privacy and Confidentiality Australian and New Zealand Journal of Law and Medicine 1993, 1(2), p 95.

Thomson, CJH Confidentiality and Privacy: Beyond Legal Duties, Medical Journal of Australia, 17 March 2003, Vol.178, No.6 p.252

Chapters in Books

Chapters 1 & 2, ‘Medical Research’, as a section of Medical Technology, Volume 20, Part 12 of Laws of Australia, North Ryde, LBC Information Services Limited (1994, 1996 & 2000)

The Right to Health, Chapter 5, Part 7: Life Health and Welfare, Volume 21: Human Rights of Laws of Australia, Law Book Company Limited, Sydney 1998 pp 87-115.

R Albury, C Thomson, S Dodds, Ethical Research: Issues for institutional ethics committees, Health: Ethics, Law & Policy Research Group, University of Wollongong, 1996

Thomson C. ‘Research Ethics Committees’. In: Ruth Chadwick, editor. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Second Edition, volume 3. San Diego: Academic Press; 2012. pp. 786–796.

Israel M, Allen, G & Thomson, C (in press, 2014) Australian Research Ethics Governance: Plotting the Demise of the Adversarial Culture. In van den Hoonaard, W & Hamilton, A (eds) The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Commissioned Papers and Reports

Developing Best Practice in Human Research Ethics Review, Consultative Council for Human Research Ethics, Victoria, 2013

The Regulation of Health Information Privacy in Australia: A description and comment, 2004, NHMRC, ISBN 1864962941

Cervical Screening in New South Wales: Legal Issues, published by NSW Cervical Screening Program, Sydney, June 1998, ISBN 0-7313-8817-8

Ethical Research and Ethics Committee Review of Social and Behavioural Research Proposals, to the Department of Human Services and Health, July 1994 (with Rebecca Albury and Susan Dodds)