Radio: Test Case on Debbie Purdy and assisted suicide

27 February 2019

Two related programmes on BBC Radio 4, available now on BBC Sounds until 28 March 2019

Test Case: Debbie Purdy

Debbie Purdy was a journalist who fell in love with a Cuban jazz musician, just as she discovered that she had primary progressive MS. Years later, their love led to a legal challenge in the House of Lords. Debbie was asking for the law to be clarified. If her condition meant she needed an assisted death, would her husband be likely to be prosecuted? Debbie’s book “It’s Not Because I Want To Die”, a gutsy account of love, life and facing death, is dramatised by Joy Wilkinson, and features the music of Debbie’s husband, Omar Puente.

Test Case: The Legacy of Debbie Purdy

So what became of Debbie Purdy and her husband Omar, who inspired her case? Why did Debbie’s legal battle, which happened 10 years ago, have such an impact? Deborah Bowman discusses these questions with the people who were there: her husband, Omar Puente, her solicitor, Saimo Chahal, and Lord Falconer, the barrister and Labour peer who campaigned on the issue in Parliament.


Conference: Human rights in end of life care: putting theory into practice

26 February 2019

27th June 2019, 09.30-15.30

Bush House, Lecture Theatre 1, King’s College London, Aldwych, London

The conference will hear from expert speakers on human rights legal cases and how they are using a human rights framework in end of life care, as well as offering a chance to hear and reflect on in-practice outcomes and experiences, from the perspective of the end of life care practitioner, and most importantly, the service-user.

Confirmed speakers include:

Dr Sanchita Hosali, Director, British Institute of Human Rights
Tor Butler-Cole, Barrister and Trustee of Compassion in Dying (and MA Medical Ethics & Law alumna)
Richard Harding, Herbert Dunhill Chair & Director of the Centre for Global Health Palliative Care
Professor Jenny Kitzinger, Cardiff University, Coma & Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre

Tickets are free, and on a first come, first served basis.


Radio: In the child’s best interests on BBC Radio 4

4 December 2018

BBC Radio 4, Sunday 9 December 2018, 17.00 GMT or via BBC Sounds

This programme features KCL MA Medical Ethics and Law alumnae Victoria Butler-Cole and Sarah Barclay, co-founder (with alumnus Dr Simon Meller) and Director of the Medical Mediation Foundation.

How and when should the decision be made to end the life of a critically ill child?

The BBC’s Medical Correspondent Fergus Walsh reflects on the legal and ethical challenges raised by controversial and emotionally charged cases, like those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans.

Their impact reverberated around the world, prompting protests on the streets, an outpouring of emotion on social media and the vilification of hospital staff. Even the US President and the Vatican got involved. Though these cases were very different, in each the parents were locked in a bruising battle with the hospital for the right to make decisions about how and where to treat their children.

The current legal test focuses on what is in the child’s best interests and, in court, the hospital, the parents and the child all have separate legal representation.

But the potentially adversarial nature of the court system and the presence of ferocious debate on social media means these intensely difficult decisions can became even more emotionally charged.

The programme examines whether it’s possible to improve the current system, to prevent more cases reaching court and whether the legal process itself could be improved.


Workshop: Suffering and Autonomy at End of Life

6 January 2017

University of Glasgow, March 2017 (date to be confirmed)

We are pleased to announce a series of events, to be held in Glasgow in 2017-2018, discussing the relationship between suffering and autonomy, with a particular focus on end of life care.

In each event, one space is reserved for a graduate student or early career researcher to present a paper which addresses the theme of the workshop. To that end we invite submissions from interested parties, addressing the themes of the series (as detailed below). We will pay all accommodation and subsistence costs, and also reasonable travel costs within the UK.

Demographic changes in western liberal democracies challenge established theory and practice concerning end of life care. This requires advances not only in the medical science of geriatric and palliative care, but also in the underlying philosophies of old age, illness, and dying, and how they relate to autonomy. Autonomy is an ideal according to which people successfully shape their lives in accordance with the values they have chosen. Autonomy at the end of life is a crucial dimension of this ideal.  Answers to the urgent questions concerning the design and delivery of end of life care require a deeper understanding of, for example, the nature and role of the suffering including its effects on consent, well-being, decision-making, the integrity of a person, and their quality of life.

The first event will be a one-day workshop, to be held in March 2017, and will answer the question: how does suffering augment autonomy at end of life?

Physical and emotional suffering can have significant value. For instance, a person’s perspective on what’s valuable or important may be enhanced through their suffering and their understanding about who they are and what they care about may be advanced. Suffering at the end of life plausibly often yields just such enhancements and advancements, therefore providing distinctive opportunities for the augmentation of autonomy. At this workshop, we thus consider how suffering augments autonomy at the end of life.

Further details (including dates and registration details) will be announced soon.

For the first workshop, full papers of up to 6,000 words should be submitted to ben.colburn[at]glasgow.ac.uk by 1 February 2017, with a separate note indicating the applicant’s career status.* The successful presenter will be informed by 1 March 2017.


Seminar: Law (and the place of law) at the end of life

10 October 2016

Tuesday 1 November 2016 16.00-18.00

Royal College of Nursing, 20 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0RN

Sir Mark Hedley, former judge of the High Court of England and Wales, joins leading barristers Alex Ruck Keene (Visiting Research Fellow at KCL) and Eloise Power in a discussion about this complex and interesting topic.

To reserve a free place please contact legal.services.events [at] rcn.org.uk before Wednesday 26 October 2016.


Seminar: My Life, My Decision: A new approach to advance care planning

28 September 2016

Thursday October 20, 2016

1:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Church House Westminster, Deans Yard, London

A free seminar organised by Compassion in Dying:

My Life, My Decision was an ambitious, multifaceted programme of work delivered by Compassion in Dying and its partners, and funded by the Big Lottery’s Silver Dreams Fund to run from July 2014 until October 2016.

Its aim was to support people aged over 50 to think about and plan their care in advance, helping to ensure they have the death that is right for them.

The project tried and tested new ways of engaging people and communities in planning for the end of life. It developed a service that placed the individual at the centre of their care decisions and supported them to express and record their wishes in a legally binding way. It also developed effective models of partnership working between health services and voluntary organisations, maximising the capacity of healthcare professionals by providing support to their patients to plan their care.

More details and registration information available via Eventbrite.


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.”