Clinical ethics support and education
The Centre's research in clinical ethics support and education is varied, and tracks current research interests of individual staff members. Topics range from how to understand and respond to moral distress, through to the ethics of medical education itself, and there is significant crossover with other research areas, including end-of-life, reproduction and methodology.
Staff use their research in this area to inform the development of teaching and training materials, as well as various public engagement activities.
BABEL (BAlancing Best interests in Ethics And Law)
Huxtable and Birchley, supported by a Wellcome Trust Seed award, are exploring the concept of ‘best Interests’ in medical ethics and law. Their work, both individually and together, has focused particularly on legal judgments about the provision or withdrawal of life-supporting treatment from patients in a minimally conscious state, although they have also been exploring decisions about cryonics and vaccination.
Conscience and Professional Integrity
Deans has a strong interest in questions of conscience and conscientious objection, having explored these issues particularly in relation to pharmacy practice. Huxtable has also explored conscience and the idea of professional integrity, particularly in connection with assisted dying.
Ethics, Law and Clinical Decision-making
Much of the Centre’s research addresses ethical and legal issues arising in clinical practice. Huxtable co-authored the second edition of The Cambridge Medical Ethics Workbook and has proposed a model describing the legal dimensions of treatment and non-treatment decisions. Morley, supported by a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellowship and supervised by Ives and Huxtable, explored moral distress in UK nursing. This research draws on feminist empirical bioethics to explore the way that nurses experience moral distress, and uses this to inform a conceptual analysis of moral distress that will provide insight into how we might respond to it. Austin, supervised in the Centre by Huxtable and supported by the ESRC, explored ethical, legal and regulatory conceptions of autonomy and standards of informed consent, and the application of those within legal judgments and fitness to practice decisions. Smith, supervised by Ives in the Centre, is exploring the ethical and legal/regulatory implications of developing artificial intelligence to play a role in clinical decision-making.
Clinical Ethics Support
Many members of the Centre team – including Huxtable, Deans, Birchley and Ives – provide clinical ethics support, for example as members of clinical ethics advisory groups. Huxtable is a trustee of the UK Clinical Ethics Network and Ives is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners Medical Ethics Committee. Huxtable has written about clinical ethics support services in a recent book, and has elsewhere published (including with Birchley) and presented on the topic, including at the Medicine Unboxed conference.
D Dickenson, R Huxtable, M Parker (2010)
Cambridge University Press
Z Deans (2013)