Another success for Imperial College students: on the 29th of March, Imperial College won the Institute of Medical Ethics National Student Debating final at the Institute of Education. Representing Imperial were: Claire Brash, Joe Gafton, Sarah Sturrock and Klara Weaver; all year 3 students: ‘Having seen the calibre of the competition at the Southern Regional final a couple of weeks previously, we were prepared for a challenging afternoon of debating’ they explained. The students had two weeks to prepare their arguments for the cases to be debated but did not know if they would be arguing for or against the motion.
The first debate was against Sheffield; the Imperial team defended the ability of the Doctor to ‘snoop’ on patients online to try to establish if the patient awaiting a liver transplant was genuinely abstinent from alcohol. The team delivered an excellent case cleverly justifying the breach of privacy on the grounds of the best interests of the patient rather than the utilitarian public interest argument of using scarce resources efficiently and won a place in the final round. The team had just 30 minutes to prepare their final debate – arguing against the motion that an autonomous request by a terminally ill patient for deep terminal sedation (i.e. rendering him unconscious until death) was ethically acceptable. They faced tough competition from Lancaster University but argued persuasively that an autonomous wish to give up autonomy through permanent sedation was no more acceptable than an autonomous wish to enter slavery and that the spiritual importance of death was of great value as a unifying human experience.
Students interested in representing Imperial College in the Institute Medical Ethics debating competition next year should get in touch with this year’s winners or:
Dr Wing May Kong
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Ethics Leadership and Professionalism