James Mumford

James Mumford is a London-based writer and fellow at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. His most recent book, Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes, is out with Bloomsbury Continuum.

The tragedy of selective abortion in Britain

Late last year, Heidi Crowter, a 27-year-old woman with Down syndrome, lost her court of appeal challenge over late-term abortions on grounds of serious foetal abnormalities. Abnormalities such as hers, that is.  The law in England, Wales and Scotland makes an exception to the 24-week time limit for abortion, permitting abortion all the way up to birth if there is ‘a substantial risk that if the

A diary of divorce

I’m living in the interstices between smokes. I fill the gaps ruminating, on the unretrievable past and the foreclosed future. I can’t concentrate enough for any one of my thousands of books to be a distraction. I wake up and count the hours until I’ll be tired enough to go back to sleep (or, on the weekends, until Match

Don’t let the assisted-suicide lobby hijack ‘dignity’

The assisted-suicide debate begins with a contest over language, a war over a word. That word is ‘dignity.’ The Swiss assisted suicide clinic, where every eight days one Briton travels to die, is called Dignitas. In 2006, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society changed its name to Dignity in Dying. And Oregon’s 1998 liberalising law – the

‘Spiritual but not religious’: the rise of consumerism in church

I was raised Christian and the more I’ve thought about it, the more curious something about my upbringing seems. My church was constantly denying it was ‘religious’. By any objective social–scientific measures, the community was decidedly religious. Maybe we weren’t that organised (there was no website), but we recited historic creeds, we submitted to the

Family is the key for breaking the reoffending cycle

Lord Farmer’s review on prison reform, launched this week at the Centre for Social Justice think tank, is ground-breaking for a number of reasons. For starters, it gets family. In an incontestably broad consultation, comprising hundreds and hundreds of interviews with prisoners across Britain, the resounding message that came back was about family. ‘If I

How to reform the care home system

The care home residents had been left on the landing in wheelchairs. That was the sight that greeted me as I walked up the stairs of the nursing home I was visiting in Wembley, north London. From above, sawdust fell as builders blithely went about their business, fixing the roof. Apart from the drilling there

What we must learn from the tragic case of Charlie Gard

I teach bioethics, and the abiding temptation is always to design classes around rare, fiendishly complex cases. That’s how you grab the attention of bored undergraduates; the fodder you throw to budding lawyers. You jump from Tony Bland to Terry Schiavo to Karen Ann Quinlan. You ask your students to put themselves in the shoes

In defence of offence

On Tuesday the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced a crackdown on gender stereotyping. Adverts suggesting men are useless around the house – racing out of the door, leaving the stove bubbling over and the dishes unwashed – could be censored because they ‘reinforce and perpetuate traditional gender roles.’ Images of beautiful mothers mopping spotless floors will

The best albums of 2013

As the new year beckons, James Mumford counts down the best albums of 2013. Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, and David Cameron’s favourite – Haim, all make the list. But Coffee House readers – what would be on your top ten? 10: Phoenix, Bankrupt! The revival of the 1980s is the clear theme of my top-ten. The

The sickeningly talented Johnny Flynn

‘I am walking in some mountains’. That’s the out-of-office that pops up when I email Johnny Flynn to request an interview. The folk star and West End actor is on holiday. But he’s not doing the Three Peaks Challenge. No, he’s tracing St Paul’s third missionary journey across southern Turkey, a 30th birthday present from

The fight for your life is now raging

Beneath your noses, a great change in this country is being planned. Secret polls have been taken, and a private member’s bill has been tabled. The euthanasia lobby is limbering up for the fight of its life: to change the law for once and for all. The Assisted Dying Bill, introduced by former Lord Chancellor

A blank cheque to the baby boomers

After more than a decade of wrangling, it seems that a deal is finally about to be struck on long-term care of the elderly, by adopting the package proposed by economist Andrew Dilnot.  George Osborne has apparently agreed to a proposal, to be announced as early as next month, to make sure no one pays

Politicians are avoiding the real problems with social care

‘The smell would be even worse’, says Zoe, the social worker I’m shadowing for the week, ‘were it not for the clothes.’ Trying not to touch or breathe, I survey the mounds of sweaters and jeans and dresses interspersed across the bare floorboards. The place is a disaster — junk everywhere, filling the shelves, piling