Writing competition: Do the right thing

6 May 2017

British Medical Association Writing Competition

Submission deadline: Friday 7 July 2017

Do the right thing? Why wouldn’t you? Of course, just like you always tell the absolute truth, and hand in that pound coin you found to the police station.

Perhaps you have faced a dilemma where both options had a claim to be ‘right’? Or where neither felt right. Or where the ‘right thing’ – morally, legally or professionally – may have done more harm than good.

Another way to approach the topic is like this – if you failed to do the ‘right thing’, why? Lack of time, resources, insight, courage?


Open to BMA members only. Read the 2016 winning stories or details on terms and conditions and how to enter, here.


TV: A world without Down’s Syndrome

3 October 2016

BBC2, Wednesday 5 October 2016, 21.00

Documentary about Down’s syndrome and the ethics of pregnancy screening, fronted by Sally Phillips. This film explores the science and thinking around the proposed new screening test for Down’s syndrome and its possible availability on the NHS.

Driven by the experience of raising her son Olly, who has Down’s syndrome, Sally explores some of the ethical implications of our national screening policy.

By talking to experts in the Down’s syndrome community, the world’s top scientists and including people with Down’s syndrome in the debate, Sally investigates a thorny subject that begs questions relevant to us all: what sort of world do we want to live in and who do we want in it?

The programme has created some controversy in advance of its broadcast. The BBC online magazine contains an interview with the presenter, Sally Phillips. For an opposing view, see yesterday’s Observer.

Radio: iPM on a patient with capacity having her life-sustaining pacemaker deactivated

27 September 2016

Last year, the Radio 4 programme iPM ran an item about an adult patient with capacity seeking to have her pacemaker deactivated:

“Who can make decisions about a pacemaker once it’s in my body?’ – After a listener got in touch with an ethical dilemma, we explore what the UK law says about switching off pacemakers and other implanted medical devices.”

Last week, the programme updated the story with details of the deactivation and eventual death of the patient.

“The listener who fought for her pacemaker to be turned off and the US doctor who helps to stop his dying patients’ hearts.”



Briefing note: Zika – ethical considerations

1 March 2016

From the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Newsletter (March 2016):

The Council has published a briefing note on the ethics of public health interventions to manage infectious disease, with a particular focus on the current Zika epidemic.

The briefing note draws on previously published Council reports on public health ethicsresearch in developing countriessolidaritybiological and health data and the regulation of emerging biotechnologies.

The note was highlighted in a one-off evidence session held as part of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s Zika Virus inquiry.

Comment on Tony Nicklinson and Martin’s cases in IBTimes

21 August 2012

I wrote a short comment for the International Business Times on the Nicklinson and Martin cases.

It argues that ‘Parliament, in particular the elected House of Commons, has failed to grasp the assisted dying nettle’. This is largely because of the substantial political risk entailed in supporting assisted dying in the face of the vulnerability objection, which asserts,

while assisted dying might benefit some people, such as Tony Nicklinson, Martin, Debbie Purdy and Dianne Pretty, it will lessen the protection afforded to ‘vulnerable’ members of society. Therefore, by active or passive pressure, the vulnerable will request assistance to die against their wishes or interests, and no legal regime can provide adequate safeguards against this.

This is notwithstanding that ‘the evidence suggests that it is possible to institute safeguards around the practice of assisted dying’. I conclude by submitting that,

‘With respect, the judiciary would do well to stop looking to Parliament for legal change on assisted dying, and consider whether they can effect it themselves.’

You can access the briefing paper on ‘The Effectiveness of Legal Safeguards in Jurisdictions that Allow Assisted Dying’ that Penney Lewis and I wrote for the Commission on Assisted Dying and consider for yourselves whether it would be possible to implement a regulatory regime for assisted dying, whether by statute or court decision.

Podcast: the ethics of translational research

2 September 2010

Translational research aims to carry across (literally, translate) the results of basic science into interventions that approve health.

“Concerns are growing over the ethics of translational research. But not all such research is morally problematic. That’s according to  Neema Sofaer and Nir Eyal in the August 2010 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics. Neema discusses the issue in an interview with Lorell LaBoube of the Bioethics Channel.”

The quotation and podcast are from the Bioethics Channel, and appear with the Channel’s permission. The Bioethics Channel is a podcast produced by the Center for Practical Bioethics.

BBC Radio 4 Inside the Ethics Committee

5 August 2008

There is a new series of this radio programme starting on Wednesday. The first programme is on saviour siblings.

See here for further details

Wednesdays 6 – 27 August 2008 8.00-8.45pm
Repeated Saturdays 9 – 30 August 10.15-11.00pm

You can listen again via www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/