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Combating chaos

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 28 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:674
  1. Geoff Watts,
  2. Tony Calland, the new chairman of the BMA's ethics committee, tells,
  3. Geoff Watts, how he metamorphosed from an ethics virgin into an ethics champion
  1. London

    A self styled “simple country doctor” joins the professional philosophers and lawyers who make up part of the membership of the BMA's medical ethics committee. He begins listening to their deliberations. What goes through his mind?

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    Tony Calland: “If you don't have some kind of ground rules or principles that have been thought out then you're heading for chaos”


    “When I first heard them,” he says, “I thought, ‘This lot are bonkers! They're off the wall.’ But then you slowly get tuned in to why they think the way they do.” The more you listen, he adds, the more you realise that the experience of seeing patients in the surgery gives you only one perspective on medicine. “It's been a revelation to me to hear the philosophers. My brain doesn't work like that. But it's fascinating to learn how other people think.”

    Tony Calland's revelatory experience came four years ago when he first joined the ethics committee—then under the chairmanship of Michael Wilks. Now Calland has assumed the role. Country, yes: as a GP he is based in an attractive part of the Wye valley in Gloucestershire. Simple? Well, you don't work your way …

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