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Swan Lecture 2017

Friday, 20 October 2017, 6:30 – 7:30pm

Swan Lecture 2017

A Balance of Opposites? Ethics, Judges and Minimally Conscious Patients
Richard Huxtable, Professor of Medical Ethics and Law,  University of Bristol.

This presentation reports on research undertaken by Professor Huxtable and Dr Giles Birchley as part of the Wellcome Trust-funded project ‘Balancing Best Interests in Healthcare, Ethics and Law’ (BABEL). The project focuses on the best interests standard, which underpins many decisions made for or with patients who lack capacity. The presentation explores legal rulings about whether it is in the best interests of patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness to (continue to) receive life-prolonging treatment. The courts have long adjudicated on cases concerning clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration for patients in the vegetative state, and they are now increasingly encountering patients in the minimally conscious state. The latter cases are the main focus of this presentation, which will specifically consider the ethical concepts, principles and approaches that feature in the judges’ decisions. We will show how the rulings encompass diverse ethical values – some of which might be expected, but some perhaps less so. We close by asking whether this is a bad thing, as it indicates inconsistency, or a good thing, as it demonstrates an openness to pluralism.

Richard Huxtable is Professor of Medical Ethics and Law, and Director of the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol. Qualified in law and socio-legal studies, he researches end-of-life decision-making, surgical ethics and clinical ethics, and has published widely in legal, bioethical and medical journals. His books include Law, Ethics and Compromise at the Limits of Life: To Treat or Not to Treat? (2012, Routledge) and All That Matters: Euthanasia (2013, Hodder), as well as the co-authored/edited The Cambridge Medical Ethics Workbook (2010, CUP) and Ethical Judgments: Re-writing Medical Law (2016, Hart). Richard co-edits the Ethics in Clinical Practice section of BMC Medical Ethics and is a trustee of the UK Clinical Ethics Network.

Register for this event here 

Campus LocationTrinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Accessibility: Yes
Room: Neill Lecture Theatre
Event Category: Lectures and Seminars
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: Free (but registration is essential)
Contact Name: Barry Lyons

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