Views & Reviews Review of the week

No patient is an island

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 13 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:568
  1. Daniel K Sokol, lecturer in medical ethics and law, St George's, University of London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}

    A radio series about the work of ethics committees, which demonstrates the web of personal and professional relationships that surround the patient journey, impresses Daniel K Sokol

    David, a middle aged man with severe learning difficulties, has high grade lymphoma. With prolonged chemotherapy, the chances of cure are roughly 50%. The treatment, however, may prove traumatic for David, who is unable to speak and who earlier experienced great distress when undergoing computed tomography. Might palliative care be a better option?

    Although clinical ethics committees (CECs) are a desirable and increasingly common addition to healthcare institutions in the United Kingdom, they are, in my experience, underused. “We need more cases” is an oft-heard refrain among committee members. Whatever the reasons for this paucity of referrals, BBC Radio 4's new series of Inside the Ethics Committee should raise awareness of the existence of CECs and convince even the ethics-sceptic clinician that reasoned discussion of a case can lead to fruitful conclusions.

    Hosted by Vivienne Parry, each 45 minute programme presents a thorny case and examines the ethical issues with a panel of three experts, usually …

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