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Dr Rebekah McWhirter



Senior Lecturer in Health Ethics Law and Professionalism


Faculty of Health


School of Medicine


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Dr Rebekah McWhirter is a senior lecturer in health law and ethics in the School of Medicine. Her research interests include ethical and legal issues in health, Indigenous genetics, and empirical research methods in ethical and legal research. She completed her PhD at the University of Tasmania on the history of compulsory vaccination legislation, and has a MSc in Public Health Research from the University of Edinburgh, investigating genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis in the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

After working at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research on a range of cancer genetics projects, Rebekah joined the Centre for Law and Genetics, and retrained in law at the University of Melbourne and the ANU. Her work now brings together her multidisciplinary experiences to focus on how the law can be used to improve public health.

Read more on Rebekah's profile

Research interests

Health and medical law, including public health law, vaccination laws, and human rights in health law

Research ethics

Ethical and legal issues in genomics


Board member of Women's Health Tasmania

Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law, co-theme leader for Empirical Ethics

Human Genetics Society of Australia

Public Health Association of Australia

Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases

Teaching interests

health law; bioethics; research ethics; empirical research methods

Units taught

HME941 Year 4 Research Scholar Program


Knowledge areas

health law; research ethics; regulation of genomics; genomics and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; empirical research in law and ethics; vaccination law; legal epidemiology

Media appearances

Medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines 'very rare': with Alexia Attwood on ABC Radio National PM, 13 August 2021

Informed consent and legal issues in genomics, Now That's What I Call Science (Edge Radio and Podcast with Niamh Chapman), 21 October 2019

Bioethics and Health Law: with Helen Shield on ABC Hobart 936, 1 October 2019

Duty to disclose, MJA Podcast Episode 40, 7 August 2017


Rebekah is a CI on an ARC Discovery Project, 'Genomic Data Sharing: Issues in Law, Research Ethics and Society' (led by Prof Dianne Nicol) and an MRFF Genomics Health Futures Mission project, 'Returning Raw Genomic Data: Patient Autonomy or Legal Minefield?' (led by A/Prof Jane Nielsen). She is an AI on an NHMRC Partnership Grant, 'Improved cardiovascular Disease hEALth service delivery in Australia: IDEAL Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial' (led by Prof Jim Sharman).

She is also working on a history of vaccination laws in Australia, and contributes to a number of projects on research ethics.


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Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science

Rebekah McWhirter

(2022), Vol. 15, pp. 202-205, International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, Toronto, Ont., C1

journal article

General practitioner perceptions of assessment and reporting of absolute cardiovascular disease risk via pathology services: a qualitative study

N Chapman, R McWhirter, M Schultz, D Ezzy, M Nelson, J Sharman

(2021), Vol. 38, pp. 172-179, Family practice, Oxford, Eng., C1

journal article

Australian human research ethics committee members' confidence in reviewing genomic research applications

R Pysar, C Wallingford, J Boyle, S Campbell, L Eckstein, R McWhirter, B Terrill, C Jacobs, A McInerney-Leo

(2021), Vol. 29, pp. 1811-1818, European Journal of Human Genetics, London, Eng., C1

journal article

A Scenario-Based Methodology for Analyzing the Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Genomic Data Sharing

R McWhirter, L Eckstein, D Chalmers, C Critchley, J Nielsen, M Otlowski, D Nicol

(2020), Vol. 15, pp. 355-364, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, London, Eng., C1

journal article

Cerebral small vessel disease genomics and its implications across the lifespan

M Sargurupremraj, H Suzuki, X Jian, C Sarnowski, T Evans, J Bis, G Eiriksdottir, S Sakaue, N Terzikhan, M Habes, W Zhao, N Armstrong, E Hofer, L Yanek, S Hagenaars, R Kumar, E van den Akker, R McWhirter, S Trompet, A Mishra, Y Saba, C Satizabal, G Beaudet, L Petit, A Tsuchida, L Zago, S Schilling, S Sigurdsson, R Gottesman, C Lewis, N Aggarwal, O Lopez, J Smith, M Valdés Hernández, J van der Grond, M Wright, M Knol, M Dörr, R Thomson, C Bordes, Q Le Grand, M Duperron, A Smith, D Knopman, P Schreiner, D Evans, J Rotter, A Beiser, S Maniega, M Beekman, J Trollor, D Stott, M Vernooij, K Wittfeld, W Niessen, A Soumaré, E Boerwinkle, S Sidney, S Turner, G Davies, A Thalamuthu, U Völker, M van Buchem, R Bryan, J Dupuis, M Bastin, D Ames, A Teumer, P Amouyel, J Kwok, R Bülow, I Deary, P Schofield, H Brodaty, J Jiang, Y Tabara, K Setoh, S Miyamoto, K Yoshida, M Nagata, Y Kamatani, F Matsuda, B Psaty, D Bennett, P De Jager, T Mosley, P Sachdev, R Schmidt, H Warren, E Evangelou, D Trégouët, M de Andrade, S Basu, C Berr, J Brody, D Chasman, J Dartigues, A Folsom, M Germain

(2020), Vol. 11, pp. 1-18, Nature Communications, London, Eng., C1

journal article

Integration of absolute cardiovascular disease risk assessment into routine blood cholesterol testing at pathology services

N Chapman, R Fonseca, L Murfett, K Beazley, R McWhirter, M Schultz, M Nelson, J Sharman

(2020), Vol. 37, pp. 675-681, Family Practice, Oxford, Eng., C1

journal article

Equitable Expanded Carrier Screening Needs Indigenous Clinical and Population Genomic Data

S Easteal, R Arkell, R Balboa, S Bellingham, A Brown, T Calma, M Cook, M Davis, H Dawkins, M Dinger, M Dobbie, A Farlow, K Gwynne, A Hermes, W Hoy, M Jenkins, S Jiang, W Kaplan, S Leslie, B Llamas, G Mann, B McMorran, R McWhirter, C Meldrum, S Nagaraj, S Newman, J Nunn, L Ormond-Parker, N Orr, D Paliwal, H Patel, G Pearson, G Pratt, B Rambaldini, L Russell, R Savarirayan, M Silcocks, J Skinner, Y Souilmi, C Vinuesa, G Baynam

(2020), Vol. 107, pp. 175-182, American Journal of Human Genetics, Cambridge, Mass., C1

journal article

Self-directed multimedia process for delivering participant informed consent

N Chapman, R McWhirter, M Armstrong, R Fonseca, J Campbell, M Nelson, M Schultz, J Sharman

(2020), Vol. 10, pp. 1-7, BMJ Open, London, Eng., C1

journal article

Recurrence patterns identify aggressive form of human papillomavirus-dependent vulvar cancer

R McWhirter, P Otahal, D Taylor-Thomson, E Maypilama, A Rumbold, J Dickinson, J Thorn, J Boyle, J Condon

(2020), Vol. 60, pp. 231-237, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Chichester, Eng., C1

journal article

Enhancing early detection of cognitive impairment in the criminal justice system: feasibility of a proposed method

R Jeanneret, C Spiranovic, L Eckstein, R McWhirter, A Arstein-Kerslake, J Scanlan, K Kirkby, P Watters, J Vickers

(2019), Vol. 31, pp. 60-74, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Disclosure of Genetic Results to At-risk Relatives without Consent: Issues for health care professionals in Australia

R McWhirter, C Johnston, J Burke

(2019), Vol. 27, pp. 108-121, Journal of Law and Medicine, Rozelle, N.S.W., C1

journal article

Genetic and lifestyle risk factors for MRI-defined brain infarcts in a population-based setting

G Chauhan, H Adams, C Satizabal, J Bis, A Teumer, M Sargurupremraj, E Hofer, S Trompet, S Hilal, A Smith, X Jian, R Malik, M Traylor, S Pulit, P Amouyel, B Mazoyer, Y Zhu, S Kaffashian, S Schilling, G Beecham, T Montine, G Schellenberg, O Kjartansson, V Guðnason, D Knopman, M Griswold, B Windham, R Gottesman, T Mosley, R Schmidt, Y Saba, H Schmidt, F Takeuchi, S Yamaguchi, T Nabika, N Kato, K Rajan, N Aggarwal, P De Jager, D Evans, B Psaty, J Rotter, K Rice, O Lopez, J Liao, C Chen, C Cheng, T Wong, M Ikram, S van der Lee, N Amin, V Chouraki, A Destefano, H Aparicio, J Romero, P Maillard, C Decarli, J Wardlaw, M Del C. Valdés Hernández, M Luciano, D Liewald, I Deary, J Starr, M Bastin, S Maniega, P Slagboom, M Beekman, J Deelen, H Uh, R Lemmens, H Brodaty, M Wright, D Ames, G Boncoraglio, J Hopewell, A Beecham, S Blanton, C Wright, R Sacco, W Wen, A Thalamuthu, N Armstrong, E Chong, P Schofield, J Kwok, J van der Grond, D Stott, I Ford, J Jukema, M Vernooij, A Hofman, A Uitterlinden, A van der Lugt, K Wittfeld, H Grabe, N Hosten, B von Sarnowski, U Völker, C Levi, J Jimenez-Conde, Rebekah McWhirter

(2019), Vol. 92, pp. E486-E503, Neurology, Philadelphia, Pa., C1

journal article

Moving Forward on Consent Practices in Australia

R McWhirter, L Eckstein

(2018), Vol. 15, pp. 243-257, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, C1

journal article

Provenance and risk in transfer of biological materials

J Nielsen, T Bubela, D Chalmers, A Johns, L Kahl, J Kamens, C Lawson, J Liddicoat, R McWhirter, A Monotti, J Scheibner, T Whitton, D Nicol

(2018), Vol. 16, pp. 1-9, PLoS Biology, San Francisco, Calif., C1

journal article

Australia: regulating genomic data sharing to promote public trust

L Eckstein, D Chalmers, C Critchley, R Jeanneret, R McWhirter, J Nielsen, M Otlowski, D Nicol

(2018), Vol. 137, pp. 583-591, Human Genetics, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1

journal article

Regulation of unregistered birth workers in Australia: Homebirth and public safety

R McWhirter

(2018), Vol. 31, pp. 134-142, Women and Birth, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1

journal article

The complex genetics of gait speed: Genome-wide meta-analysis approach

D Ben-Avraham, D Karasik, J Verghese, K Lunetta, J Smith, J Eicher, R Vered, J Deelen, A Arnold, A Buchman, T Tanaka, J Faul, M Nethander, M Fornage, H Adams, A Matteini, M Callisaya, A Smith, L Yu, P De Jager, D Evans, V Gudnason, A Hofman, A Pattie, J Corley, L Launer, D Knopman, N Parimi, S Turner, S Bandinelli, M Beekman, D Gutman, L Sharvit, S Mooijaart, D Liewald, J Houwing-Duistermaat, C Ohlsson, M Moed, V Verlinden, D Mellström, J van der Geest, M Karlsson, D Hernandez, R McWhirter, Y Liu, R Thomson, G Tranah, A Uitterlinden, D Weir, W Zhao, J Starr, A Johnson, M Arfan Ikram, D Bennett, S Cummings, I Deary, T Harris, S Sharon, T Mosley, V Srikanth, B Windham, A Newman, J Walston, G Davies, D Evans, E Slagboom, L Ferrucci, D Kiel, J Murabito, G Atzmon

(2017), Vol. 9, pp. 209-246, Aging, Orchard Park, N.Y., C1

journal article

Implementing values-based governance for a new bioresource model

D Nicol, R McWhirter, J Dickinson

(2017), Vol. 4, pp. 404-411, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Oxford, Eng., C1

journal article

Performance data and informed consent: A duty to disclose?

R McWhirter

(2017), Vol. 207, pp. 100-101, Medical Journal of Australia, Chichester, Eng., C1

journal article

Identifying public expectations of genetic biobanks

C Critchley, D Nicol, R McWhirter

(2017), Vol. 26, pp. 671-687, Public Understanding of Science, London, Eng., C1

journal article

Informed Consent and Performance Data: Clinician Experience as a Material Risk

Rebekah McWhirter

(2017), Vol. 40, pp. 566-589, UNSW Law Journal, C1

journal article

Novel genetic loci underlying human intracranial volume identified through genome-wide association

H Adams, D Hibar, V Chouraki, J Stein, P Nyquist, M Rentería, S Trompet, A Arias-Vasquez, S Seshadri, S Desrivières, A Beecham, N Jahanshad, K Wittfeld, S Van Der Lee, L Abramovic, S Alhusaini, N Amin, M Andersson, K Arfanakis, B Aribisala, N Armstrong, L Athanasiu, T Axelsson, A Beiser, M Bernard, J Bis, L Blanken, S Blanton, M Bohlken, M Boks, J Bralten, A Brickman, O Carmichael, M Chakravarty, G Chauhan, Q Chen, C Ching, G Cuellar-Partida, A Braber, N Doan, S Ehrlich, I Filippi, T Ge, S Giddaluru, A Goldman, R Gottesman, C Greven, O Grimm, M Griswold, T Guadalupe, J Hass, U Haukvik, S Hilal, E Hofer, D Hoehn, A Holmes, M Hoogman, D Janowitz, T Jia, D Kasperaviciute, S Kim, M Klein, B Kraemer, P Lee, J Liao, D Liewald, L Lopez, M Luciano, C Macare, A Marquand, M Matarin, K Mather, M Mattheisen, B Mazoyer, D McKay, R McWhirter, Y Milaneschi, N Mirza-Schreiber, R Muetzel, S Maniega, K Nho, A Nugent, L Loohuis, J Oosterlaan, M Papmeyer, I Pappa, L Pirpamer, S Pudas, B Pütz, K Rajan, A Ramasamy, J Richards, S Risacher, R Roiz-Santiañez, N Rommelse, E Rose, N Royle, T Rundek, P Sämann, C Satizabal

(2016), Vol. 19, pp. 1569-1582, Nature neuroscience, New York, N.Y., C1

journal article

Understanding public reactions to commercialization of biobanks and use of biobank resources

D Nicol, C Critchley, R McWhirter, T Whitton

(2016), Vol. 162, pp. 79-87, Social Science and Medicine, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1

journal article

Regulation of non-consensual genetic testing in Australia: Use of samples from deceased persons

R McWhirter, M Otlowski

(2016), Vol. 24, pp. 150-165, Journal of Law and Medicine, Sydney, N.S.W., C1

journal article

Precision medicine: Drowning in a regulatory soup?

D Nicol, T Bubela, D Chalmers, J Charbonneau, C Critchley, J Dickinson, J Fleming, A Hewitt, J Kaye, J Liddicoat, R McWhirter, M Otlowski, N Ries, L Skene, C Stewart, J Wagner, N Zeps

(2016), Vol. 3, pp. 281-303, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Oxford, Eng., C1

journal article

All in the Blood

E Kowal, A Greenwood, R McWhirter

(2015), Vol. 10, pp. 347-359, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, C1

journal article

Genomics in research and health care with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

R McWhirter, R McWhirter, D Nicol, D Nicol, J Savulescu, J Savulescu

(2015), Vol. 33, pp. 203-209, Monash bioethics review, C1

journal article

Genetic and epigenetic variation in vulvar cancer: Current research and future clinical practice

R McWhirter, R McWhirter, J Marthick, J Marthick, J Boyle, J Boyle, J Dickinson, J Dickinson

(2014), Vol. 54, pp. 406-411, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, C1

journal article

Runs of homozygosity and a cluster of vulvar cancer in young Australian Aboriginal women

R Mcwhirter, R Mcwhirter, R Thomson, R Thomson, J Marthick, J Marthick, A Rumbold, A Rumbold, M Brown, M Brown, D Taylor-Thomson, D Taylor-Thomson, E Maypilama, E Maypilama, J Condon, J Condon, J Dickinson, J Dickinson

(2014), Vol. 133, pp. 421-426, Gynecologic Oncology, C1

journal article

New avenues within community engagement: addressing the ingenuity gap in our approach to health research and future provision of health care

D Chalmers, D Chalmers, R McWhirter, R McWhirter, D Nicol, D Nicol, T Whitton, T Whitton, M Otlowski, M Otlowski, M Burgess, M Burgess, S Foote, S Foote, C Critchley, C Critchley, J Dickinson, J Dickinson

(2014), Vol. 1, pp. 321-328, Journal of Responsible Innovation, C1

journal article

Community Engagement for Big Epidemiology: Deliberative Democracy as a Tool

Rebekah McWhirter, Rebekah McWhirter, Christine Critchley, Christine Critchley, Dianne Nicol, Dianne Nicol, Don Chalmers, Don Chalmers, Tess Whitton, Tess Whitton, Margaret Otlowski, Margaret Otlowski, Michael Burgess, Michael Burgess, Joanne Dickinson, Joanne Dickinson


journal article

Body ownership and research.

R McWhirter, D Nicol, D Chalmers, J Dickinson

(2013), Vol. 21, pp. 323-329, Journal of law and medicine, C1-1

journal article

Ethical genetic research in Indigenous communities: Challenges and successful approaches{star, open}

R McWhirter, R McWhirter, D Mununggirritj, D Mununggirritj, D Marika, D Marika, J Dickinson, J Dickinson, J Condon, J Condon

(2012), Vol. 18, pp. 702-708, Trends in Molecular Medicine, C1

journal article

Genome-wide homozygosity and multiple sclerosis in Orkney and Shetland Islanders

R McWhirter, R McWhirter, R McQuillan, R McQuillan, E Visser, E Visser, C Counsell, C Counsell, J Wilson, J Wilson

(2012), Vol. 20, pp. 198-202, European Journal of Human Genetics, C1

journal article

The history of bioethics

R McWhirter, R McWhirter

(2012), Vol. 55, pp. 329-338, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, C1

journal article

Funded Projects at Deakin

No Funded Projects at Deakin found


No completed student supervisions to report