468 e-Letters

  • In response to: Confused out of care: unanticipated consequences of a ‘Hostile Environment’

    Glennerster and Hodson should be congratulated on their paper tackling a very important and sensitive issue (1). They have performed a thorough analysis of legal landscape with its consequences. I feel however, that their analysis of ethical implications is lacking. Also, doctors unintentionally become second victims in this paper, appearing as those who do not care.

    The United Kingdom is sadly not the only state that chose to pursue a “hostile environment” policy directed towards refugees and other migrants. Readers may recall the recent story of the Spanish humanitarian ship Open Arms who having rescued migrants in the Mediterranean Sea was denied entry into Malta and Italy (2). The rescue ships face fines of one million euros if they enter Italian coastal waters without prior permission under new legislation. Another sad example comes from Hungary, famous for building a fence along its border to keep out refugees and the toxic “Stop Soros” bill (3). A created hostility is not only a threat to life and health, but also a threat to our humanity. By ignoring vulnerability of refugees well described by the 1951 Convention (4), of which incidentally the UK is a signatory, we collectively threaten the very concept of dignity inherent in our humanity. A Polish writer and philosopher Stanisław Lem, once reflected on the roots of Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi regime (5). He asserted that there occurred a complete reversal of moral compass for the German society. Cle...

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  • The challenge of pain

    Dear Editor,

    What stood out most for me about the findings of the paper by Derbyshire and Bockmann is that whatever our moral stance on abortion, there appears to be neuroscientific evidence that supports the distinct possibility of fetal pain before 24 weeks gestation. These findings challenge the common assumption that pain is mostly a “reflective” experience by including unreflective pain as worthy of reasonable concern (as in the case of animal pain). That consideration is one relevant factor which needs to feed into our reflections on how or whether certain abortions will be carried out.

    The RCOG in its latest report on fetal pain concluded that “The experience of pain needs cognitive, sensory and affective components, as well as the necessary anatomical and physiological neural connections.” (1) Years before, along the same lines, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee reported that “while the evidence suggests that foetuses have physiological reactions to noxious stimuli, it does not indicate that pain is consciously felt, especially not below the current upper gestational limit of abortion...these factors may be relevant to clinical practice but do not appear to be relevant to the question of abortion law.”(2) Professor Derbyshire was a member of the Working Party which put this document together and was a key witness before the STC Committee but now, in light of his researches, rejects these confident conclusions.

    In the light...

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  • Induced Abortion and Fetal Pain

    Dear Editor,

    Understanding the complexity of induced abortion in context of society, culture, health and religion is a domain that should be explored. Many studies have reported ethical consideration of this issue which may be related to parenthood, rights of the fetus and mother, harms/benefits to the fetus and mother involved in abortion of the fetus.

    Fetal pain should always be put into consideration before deciding on fetal interventional procedures or deciding on aborting the fetus after 13 weeks of gestation and proper anaesthesia/analgesia should be given to the pregnant woman undergoing the procedure. The knowledge about the concept of fetal pain is important and the neurological aspects of the pain perception of the fetus should be known.

    1. Bandewar S. Exploring the ethics of induced abortion. Indian journal of medical ethics. 2005 Jan;13(1):18-21.
    2. Um YR. A study of the ethics of induced abortion in Korea. Nursing ethics. 1999 Nov;6(6):506-14.
    3. Lee SJ, Ralston HJ, Drey EA, Partridge JC, Rosen MA. Fetal pain: a systematic multidisciplinary review of the evidence. Jama. 2005 Aug 24;294(8):947-54.

  • Professional interpreters are human beings

    Interpreting and translation are unregulated activities in most countries, yet interpreters and translators perform challenging work in sensitive domains, such as medicine. Interpreters and translators rarely have access to ethical infrastructure and the function and ethical boundaries of ‘interpreting practice’ are not widely known .

    Translators or interpreters do not cease being human beings with human rights, when they enter their profession. All human beings, including interpreters, possess human rights and human freedoms. Conscientious objection is a right derived from the human right to freedom of conscience. Human beings (interpreters) are not machines; machines, when maintained, are on the whole very predictable and reliable. Interpreters like other human beings can be creative, self-aware, imaginative and flexible in their thinking.

    Limitations exist in workplaces that cannot allow for a variety of opinions, thoughts, beliefs and conscientious positions.

    Moral distress is a wide spread problem for health care providers in a range of acute and community health care settings. The understanding of moral distress may differ depending on the extent to which the problem is located in individual and/or systemic /structural factors. Healthcare staff members (as human beings) react in various ways when ethically/morally challenged: they may withdraw from ethically challenging situations; change their position; and/or continue to raise object...

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  • Healthcare staff wanted. No one with a conscientious objection need apply?

    Help wanted. No Irish need apply.


    Are we to expect the following?

    Healthcare staff wanted. No one with a conscientious objection need apply.

  • Reflection

    While I must agree the analogy of the siamese twins do provide a better understanding of some of the issues dealt with by Thomson there is one fatal law not addressed with this analogy. In law of evidence it must always be considered whether the probative value of evidence outweighs the possible prejudice using said evidence could hold. Applying that to this scenario it can be argued that the person attached to the unconscious violinist has an understanding a a frame of reference to what life was like before the incident, what life is like during the attachment and what life could be like after attachment. There is thus a clear understanding of what is being sacrificed and the changes forward this will have. The same can be said for a pregnant woman contemplating abortion. She knows what life was life before pregnancy what life is like during pregnancy and what changes to except after the birth of the child, thus enabling her to make an informed decision. The same can however not be said for the siamese twins as Elizabeth has no framework to base the standard of her life on. Elizabeth only knows what life is like attached to Catherine as she has never been independent of her. Elizabeth can thus not make an informed decision as she has no idea what life will be like without Catherine (she could become depressed for the loss of a loved one she has known her entire life, or she could end up regretting her decision much later on in life when it is too late [if a woman gets an...

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  • The real danger lies with doctors acting in a way that is not in the best interest of the patient

    Dr Anthony-Pillai is wrong to argue that the BMA and Royal College of Physicians’ guidance on decisions about clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) is dangerous in overlooking the symptomatic benefit that CANH can provide.

    Our guidance, which was developed over a period of 18 months, in conjunction with a range of medical, legal, and ethical experts, is professional guidance, setting out the process that needs to be followed in order to comply with the law and good practice. We are clear that the guidance should be read in conjunction with the most up-to-date clinical guidelines when reaching a decision, and that any significant divergence from established practice must be justified. It is the clinical guidance which is the most appropriate home for discussion on assessing and responding to symptomatic distress. For patients who are in a prolonged disorder of consciousness (PDOC), this will be the clinical guidelines on PDOC from the Royal College of Physicians – who were the joint authors of our guidance. (These guidelines are currently under review by the RCP’s PDOC guideline development group following recent changes to the law. The updated version is expected to be published in early 2020.)

    We do not, as Dr Anthony-Pillai suggests, only “implicitly acknowledge” that CANH can provide symptomatic benefit. We explicitly state at the outset, in determining the scope of the guidance, that “clinical benefit” encapsulates not just prolonging some...

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  • Keep it Simple: Conscientious Objection

    It is possible to over think and over analyse the issue of conscientious objection (CO).
    CO is a right derived from the human right to Freedom of Conscience, religion and belief.

    Human rights are personal.
    They belong to each individual person.

    It is not possible to be impersonal or impartial when one's human rights are threatened.

    Human rights are invisible when they are respected.
    When they are denied they become visible.

    The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy )Act 2018 in Ireland has excluded me and other
    healthcare workers from our human right to Freedom of Conscience and the derivate right of CO.
    Doctors and nurses (and their students and trainees) in Ireland are the only healthcare workers with the legal right to CO in this Act.

    I am an Irish pharmacist.
    I value my human rights.
    Freedom of conscience is my right as a human being.
    CO is my right as a human being.

    This is personal.
    This is very simple.

  • About "terminally ill"

    The article assumes that discerning a category of terminally ill persons will be done fairly readily, with some minor controversy that can be ignored. This is not the case. Most of us now will die after a long period of decline, from any of a long list of illnesses and conditions associated with aging. The mean length of self-care disability for persons who make it to 65 years old is about 2 years. We built the concept of a 6 month prognosis on the experience with certain highly fatal cancers, where the usual time from onset of a clearly fatal course to death was well under 6 months. This trajectory is not the experience of persons dying with various causes of frailty, as most of us will experience. We will know that our Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or frailty (or whatever) will worsen through to death, but the timing of the dying will depend mostly on rather random events - an infection, a fall, or some such event when we have so little resilience. Another way to look at it is to try to define the statistical meaning of a prognosis of less than 6 months. Is it 51% likely to die within 6 months, or 91%, or 99%? To many people, this sounds like a silly set of questions, but the difference in the population made "eligible" for PAD (or hospice) is more than 1000-fold at each of these thresholds. And the "error rate" at 1 or 2 years is very different for different illnesses. A person who has a 51% chance of dying within 6 months from a ne...

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  • Re: It is never lawful or ethical to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness


    Foster considers that is it not ethically nor lawfully acceptable to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from patients with Permanent Disorder of Consciousness(1) (PDOC). Though we agree the proposition has strong grounds to be made, we conclude that stating this to be the case “under any circumstances” may be oversimplifying the issue. We look at the case of W v M 2011 where withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment was denied and compare it to the cases of Airedale NHS Trust v Bland 1993 and Briggs v Briggs 2016 in which it was deemed legal to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from PDOC patients on the grounds of best interests. We also discuss some points in which Beauchamp and Childress’s ethical principles regarding ‘non-maleficience’ and ‘respect for autonomy’ do not align with Foster’s view, such as advanced directives and treatment side effects.

    Withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment is unlawful

    Foster makes a strong argument regarding the ambiguity surrounding the issues of removing life-sustaining treatment. Cases such as W v M 2011(2) exemplify how this uncertainty has affected the legal stance on this issue. M had suffered from a non-traumatic brain injury resulting in a ‘minimally conscious state’ (MCS), with intermittent periods of awareness. Though M was still left with the ability to have joyful experiences, she also had to endure periods of significant pain. Previously, M had expressed her wishes to never be wholly dependent o...

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