Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Clinical ethics comes of age

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 27 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1443
  1. Daniel K Sokol, lecturer in medical ethics and law at St George’s, University of London

    Daniel K Sokol is impressed by a collection of case studies that signals a new stage in the development of clinical ethics

    For the past week I have enjoyed my bus journey to work. In the discomfort of my seat I pondered ethical dilemmas, like a chess fanatic relishing a strange position on the board.

    In the 28 chapters of Complex Ethics Consultations North American hospital ethicists share their most haunting cases. In “The Sound of Chains” Jeffrey Spike recounts the story of Angel, a comatose baby on a ventilator. The prognosis is bleak: an enduring coma or a permanent vegetative state. Angel was a shaken baby, and his mother, a suspect, asked to see him. The question posed to the ethicist over the phone: “Should the mother be allowed to visit her child?” The healthcare staff were divided over the issue. When the mother arrived at the hospital she wore an orange prison jumpsuit with heavy chains joining her wrists and ankles. She wants to hold the baby. Should this …

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