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Student Life

Ethical shades of grey

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.0306201 (Published 01 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:0306201
  1. Peter Cross, freelance journalist1
  1. 1London

Peter Cross talks to clergyman John Polkinghorne about ethics

How do you deal with the provision of medical care in the context of limited resources? How do you calculate the cost of a heart transplant against the value of hip replacements? St Paul's Cathedral in London may seem an unlikely setting for a medical ethics lecture that purports to address these and other questions.

The lecture, “The Person, The Soul and Genetic Engineering” pulled together the wisdom and experience that John Polkinghorne gained in science and religion. Knowledge and expertise accumulated as a theoretical physicist, Cambridge professor, clergyman, past chairman of both the Human Genetics Commission and, for almost a decade, the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee.

The Student BMJ caught up with Polkinghorne just before his lecture, on his return from the Aztecs exhibition at the Royal Academy. The winner of the $1m (£600 000; a900 000) 2002 Templeton Religious Prize is uniquely placed to discuss some of the issues facing doctors, scientists, and indeed the lay public at the beginning of the 21st century.

“Science is a young person's game,” Polkinghorne believes, “Particularly the sort of …

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