02 Jul 2009

Medical Choices - whose decision is it anyway?

Inside the Ethics Committee returns to BBC Radio 4 on 16 July
Difficult decisions about life and death are being made in hospitals around the country every day. Clinical ethics committees consider these issues before advising clinicians and families on the most appropriate course of action. In the returning series of Inside the Ethics Committee, a co-production between The Open University and BBC, Joan Bakewell will reveal how these dilemmas are confronted and resolved.

Each week Joan is joined by a panel of experts including health professionals, philosophers, lay members and lawyers. They will be presented with a real-life case, told through the personal testimony of the patients, relatives and medical staff involved. As the panel gradually unravels the ethical dilemmas, they will test the moral foundation of how decisions are made in hospitals every day.

Commenting on the series, Joan Bakewell said: “Ethics should be at the heart of all we do: in no area of public life is that more important than in the scrupulous care we give to those who are ill. This series offers the public a close-up of how tricky decisions are made in our hospitals, with all the nuances of opposing arguments laid bare. I am delighted to be associated with these programmes, and believe they will offer fascinating listening."

The programmes will address issues including a surgeon’s duty of care to a patient who is refusing to have a life saving operation and whether it is ethical to allow someone to donate their 'spare' kidney to a loved one when there's a high risk of the organ failing or the recipient dying during the transplant. It will ask who should decide whether a woman can be offered assisted reproduction and how a terminally ill woman who is of sound mind, but wants to end her life, should be treated by the medical profession.

Dr Derek Matravers, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at The Open University and Academic Consultant to the series, said: “The issues that are brought up on hospital ethics committees are often of great importance, and also of intricate complexity. The impact on patients reminds us that we need to be extremely careful in our deliberations, to ensure that we get to the right conclusions. The Open University, which has a fine tradition in teaching health-care ethics, is pleased to bring some of these deliberations to a wider public, as an instance of the importance of philosophy in everyday life.”

The four 42 minute programmes will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 9am on 16, 23, 30 July & 6 August. An Open University play for BBC Radio 4 will accompany the series.

Editor’s Notes
The academic advisor to the series is Dr Derek Matravers, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at The Open University.
Series Producers are Beth Eastwood and Pam Rutherford.
BBC Multiplatform Commissioning Executive for The Open University is Catherine McCarthy.
The Broadcast Learning Executive for The Open University is Caroline Ogilvie.

Related Courses
- Ethics in Real Life (A181)
- Philosophy and the human situation (A211)
- Thought and experience: themes in the philosophy of mind (AA308)

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