This paper, based on a talk given at a conference on compassion in health care held at the Royal Society of Medicine in November 2012, argues that the ethical requirement for humanity in health care is obvious and needs little ethical analysis – the problem is to get the results of ethical reflection, ordinary humanity and everyday common sense, into everyday behaviour. The author offers some suggestions that might help to achieve this aim and bring back the human face of (...) health and social care. These suggestions concern organisational structural changes (including `humanity objectives' in appraisal and reward schemes); individual attitudes (including self assessment of their own humanity in their work by all health and social care workers – `does my own practice manifest a human face?'); and a possible research agenda (and a concomitant effort to remind all health care research funders that `humanity is an integral component of medical, health and care research'. And the author proposes a standing high level `humanity task force' to implement and oversee Health Education England's recent `humanity mandate'. (shrink)
Medical Ethics has many unsung heros and heroines. Here we celebrate one of these and on telling part of her story hope to place modern medical ethics and bioethics in the UK more centrally within its historical and human contex.
This commentary briefly argues that the four prima facie principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for autonomy and justice enable a clinician (and anybody else) to make ethical sense of the author's proposed reliance on professional guidance and rules, on law, on professional integrity and on best interests, and to subject them all to ethical analysis and criticism based on widely acceptable basic prima facie moral obligations; and also to confront new situations in the light of those acceptable principles.
Knowledge of the ethical and legal basis of medicine is as essential to clinical practice as an understanding of basic medical sciences. In the UK, the General Medical Council (GMC) requires that medical graduates behave according to ethical and legal principles and must know about and comply with the GMC’s ethical guidance and standards. We suggest that these standards can only be achieved when the teaching and learning of medical ethics, law and professionalism are fundamental to, and thoroughly integrated both (...) vertically and horizontally throughout, the curricula of all medical schools as a shared obligation of all teachers. The GMC also requires that each medical school provides adequate teaching time and resources to achieve the above. We reiterate that the adequate provision and coordination of teaching and learning of ethics and law requires at least one full-time senior academic in ethics and law with relevant professional and academic expertise. In this paper we set out an updated indicative core content of learning for medical ethics and law in UK medical schools and describe its origins and the consultative process by which it was achieved. (shrink)
It is hypothesised and argued that “the four principles of medical ethics” can explain and justify, alone or in combination, all the substantive and universalisable claims of medical ethics and probably of ethics more generally. A request is renewed for falsification of this hypothesis showing reason to reject any one of the principles or to require any additional principle(s) that can’t be explained by one or some combination of the four principles. This approach is argued to be compatible with a (...) wide variety of moral theories that are often themselves mutually incompatible. It affords a way forward in the context of intercultural ethics, that treads the delicate path between moral relativism and moral imperialism. Reasons are given for regarding the principle of respect for autonomy as “first among equals”, not least because it is a necessary component of aspects of the other three. A plea is made for bioethicists to celebrate the approach as a basis for global moral ecumenism rather than mistakenly perceiving and denigrating it as an attempt at global moral imperialism. (shrink)
This paper argues that the central issue in the abortion debate has not changed since 1967 when the English parliament enacted the Abortion Act. That central issue concerns the moral status of the human fetus. The debate here is not, it is argued, primarily a moral debate, but rather a metaphysical debate and/or a theological debate—though one with massive moral implications. It concerns the nature and attributes that an entity requires to have “full moral standing” or “moral inviolability” including a (...) “right to life”. It concerns the question when, in its development from newly fertilised ovum to unequivocally mature, autonomous morally inviolable person does a human being acquire that nature and those attributes, and thus a “right to life”. The paper briefly reviews standard answers to these questions, outlining some problems associated with each. Finally there is a brief discussion of one way in which the abortion debate has changed since 1967—notably in the increasingly vociferous claim, especially from disability rights sectors, that abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality implies contempt for and rejection of disabled people—a claim that is rebutted. (shrink)