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Raising the profile of fairness and justice in medical practice and policy
  1. Raanan Gillon
  1. Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Raanan Gillon, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London W6 8RP, UK; raanan.gillon{at}

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Justice, one of the four Beauchamp and Childress prima facie basic principles of biomedical ethics, is explored in two excellent papers in the current issue of the journal. The papers stem from a British Medical Association (BMA) essay competition on justice and fairness in medical practice and policy. Although the competition was open to (almost) all comers, of the 235 entries both the winning paper by Alistair Wardrope1 and the highly commended runner-up by Zoe Fritz and Caitríona Cox2 were written by practising doctors—a welcome indication of the growing importance being accorded to philosophical reflection about medical practice and practices within medicine itself. Both papers are thoroughly thought provoking and represent two very different approaches to the topic. Each deserves a careful read.

The competition was a component of a BMA 2019/2020 ‘Presidential project’ on fairness and justice and asked candidates to ‘use ethical reasoning and theory to tackle challenging, practical, contemporary, problems in health care and help provide a solution based on an explained and defended sense of fairness/justice’.

In this guest editorial I’d like to explain why, in 2018 on becoming president-elect of the BMA, I chose the theme of justice and fairness in medical ethics for my 2019–2020 Presidential project—and why in a world of massive and ever-increasing and remediable health inequalities biomedical ethics requires greater international and interdisciplinary efforts to try to reach agreement on the need to achieve greater ‘health justice’ and to reach agreement on what that commitment actually means and on what in practice it requires.

First, some background. As president I was offered the wonderful opportunity to pursue, with the organisation’s formidable assistance, a ‘project’ consistent with the BMA’s interests and values. As a hybrid of general medical practitioner and philosopher/medical ethicist, and as a firm defender of the Beauchamp …

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