Medical ethics in Britain

This paper describes the medical ethics scene in Britain. After giving a brief account of the structure of British medical ethics and of the roles of the different groups involved it mentions some of the important medico-moral events and issues of the fairly recent past, and describes in greater detail four important examples of professional, legal, governmental and media concerns with medical ethics, themselves illustrating the wide variety of interests wishing to influence the British medical profession's ethics. The examples offered are the development of research ethics committees, the Sidaway case concerning informed consent, the Warnock Committee's Report on in vitro fertilisation and associated issues, and the 1980 Reith Lectures on Unmasking Medicine. In the final section a fairly new methodological development in British medical ethics is described in which the medical profession is increasingly recognising the need to add to traditional medical ethics education, with its longstanding history of the inculation and enforcement of ethical norms, an element of philosophical or critical medical ethics, at the heart of which is justification of substantive medico-moral claims in the light of counterarguments.
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