Thou shalt not judge. A GP asked me recently whether he should sign patients off sick when he thought they were swinging the lead. I talk to a lot of GPs and I get asked a lot of difficult questions – it goes with the ethics territory – but this one looked like a no-brainer: […]
Category: Julian Sheather
Julian Sheather is specialist adviser (ethics and human rights), policy directorate, BMA.
Julian Sheather: Should doctors make moral judgments about their patients?
Thou shalt not judge. There are times when it feels like our eleventh commandment. In our liberal, offence-free world there are supposed to be no good and bad choices, no good or bad lives, only a plurality of equal lifestyles equally deserving of respect. Arguably, the charge of moralism is now more widely feared than […]
Julian Sheather: On death, dying, and “Departures”
Dead bodies do not seem to have a place in the modern world. Death, dying, the dead—if they can be so unceremoniously bundled together—lie in our culture somewhere between the unmentionable, the ineffable, and the simply ill-mannered. (Shades here of La Rochefoucauld: neither death nor the sun can be looked at directly, both presumably having […]
Julian Sheather: Medicine, Strasbourg, and conscientious objection
The media made quite a fuss recently about the European Court of Human Rights finding that British Airways had unfairly discriminated against an employee, Mrs Eweida, in refusing to let her visibly wear a crucifix. Apparently David Cameron tweeted his delight with the judgment. But by the time the case reached Strasbourg, British Airways had […]
Julian Sheather: On doughnuts, moral desert, and paying for our health
I am writing this on an early train to Manchester. Not a bad time to see what people enjoy for breakfast. The woman opposite is eating one of those lovely looking pastry ropes wound full of chocolate chips and dusted with icing sugar. Although it is not a doughnut, inevitably I am reminded of the […]
Julian Sheather: Taxing the fat
To the evident frustration of the Danish Medical Association, Denmark has repealed the world’s first tax on saturated fats. The climb-down came after just over a year, the government citing strong public hostility. According to the Economist, “retailers and shoppers whooped with joy” at the announcement. Given that so much of the world is struggling […]
Julian Sheather: Should parents be compelled to vaccinate their children?
I was recently asked to give a talk on vaccination and potential conflicts between the rights of parents and the interests of their children. A few years back when my boys were bonny wee things some bohemian friends announced that they would not be vaccinating their children, they would rely instead on homeopathic remedies. Although […]
Julian Sheather: Medical electives—laying the ghosts of empire?
I was at Brighton Medical School recently, talking ethics to third years, and a lively and engaging bunch they were too. Among the many things we talked about were electives, particularly in resource poor countries. It is no surprise that students look forward to their electives. The travel appeals of course; the ability also to […]
Julian Sheather: Time to claim kin with the volcanologists?
No, I am not about to declare myself a closet trekkie. I have in mind the decision by Judge Marco Billi to jail six Italian seismologists for giving ‘false assurances’ before an earthquake hit L’Aquila in 2009, a decision, as the BBC just couldn’t help saying, that sent “shockwaves” through the scientific community. What made […]
Julian Sheather: Safeguarding adults—respecting freedom, maximising welfare
I was in Bromley recently at an adult safeguarding conference. It was in some respects a melancholy day. We heard about Brent Martin, a 23 year-old with learning disabilities and a mental disorder beaten to death by members of a gang who temporarily befriended him, though largely for access to his benefits. He had been […]