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Medical Society: Dr David Misselbrook

 On the 4th November 2009 the Medical Society welcomed the Dean of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr David Misselbrook to talk. As a practicing GP, an educationalist and ethicist, he is in a unique position to offer insight of the medical field from three distinct viewpoints; however, tonight he decided to focus on the ethics of modern medical practice.

           He led us swiftly and concisely through a brief history of ethics, from the Hammurabi Code of 1760 BC, introducing the concept of divine command into ethical thinking, which would continue to influence ethical thought thousands of years later through to the virtue ethics of Homer, where the strength equated to what was morally correct, to the Hippocratic that seemed to conclude that excellent character would naturally lead to moral actions. He introduced the Golden Rule which seems founded in Judeo-Christian tradition but has transcended the boundaries of religion and culture. Later, Aquinas tried to fuse the classical thought with the Christian, and emphasised that we must consider the nature, the consequence and motivation of an act in conjunction with each other in order to form a moral judgement on it. Hobbes posited that morality was a convenience to appease other members of society and prevent conflict. The Age of Enlightenment was the period in which many philosophers devised their own normative ethical systems. Kant postulated morality as a science, something that could be systematically and rationally devised, dependant on principles of univeralisation, mutual respect for persons and acting as though all actions could be made into laws. Bentham’s utilitarianism proposed the greatest happiness to the greatest number. Mill emphasised the utmost sovereignty of the individual.


With these various methods of thinking, he presented us with a case study and asked us how a doctor ought to respond: two patients have entered the A&E department both suffering from gunshot wounds, one is a policeman and the other a drug dealer, the policeman is stable at the moment, whereas the criminal is critical, dying from a haematoma. Only one operation room is available, who deserves to be saved?


He concluded to say that modern medicine is based on principlism in which autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice must all be balanced with each other. The aim of this moral system is to be general and universal for all people. Ultimately the care of the patient should be the primary concern.


Overall this was a very successful society meeting, drawing in over 50 people from the student body and the wider community, in which all were encouraged to develop their own thoughts on morality.


Charlie Zhou KS



DATE POSTED: 04 November 2009

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