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International Conference on Clinical Ethics and Consultation, Oxford - 21-23 June 2018

There will be no standalone UKCEN conference in 2018 because of the presence of the International Conference on Clinical Ethics and Consultation taking place from 21st-23rd June in Oxford.  UKCEN will be presenting a symposium on the 21st June, title: 'Clinic, Court or Committee: In the Best Interests of the Critically Ill Child?' (See details below for further information).

Registration is now open and there are reduced rates for UKCEN members and early bird discounts.  UKCEN are offering bursaries (for lay CEC members, nurses etc) to cover registration fee on the 21st June and travel/accommodation up to a maximum value of £250 per applicant).  To apply for this you need to be a member of a UKCEN subscribed clinical ethics committee.  Please register for the conference before applying.  You can download an application form here and an expenses form.  

Additionally the Institute of Medical Ethics are offering student bursaries.  Details can be found on the ICCEC registration page.  

For further information including registration, programme and bursaries please visit: 

Symposium - 21st June: Clinic, Court or Committee: In the Best Interests of the Critically Ill Child? 

Conflicts can arise in the clinic when a decision must be made about (not) providing life-sustaining treatment to a critically ill child. Even with careful communication, clinicians and parents will sometimes differ in their assessments of what the welfare or “best interests” of the child requires.

Some such conflicts are amenable to resolution in the clinical setting; others, however, fall to be decided in a court, as occurred in the UK cases of Charlotte Wyatt (2005), Ashya King (2014), and Charlie Gard (2017). The Gard case was particularly fraught, generating significant (worldwide) media attention and the interventions of international leaders. In that case, the parents wished to try an experimental treatment overseas, but the courts ruled that this was not in the best interests of the child. The courts did, however, recommend that efforts be made to resolve disputes prior to recourse to the law.

In this symposium, which is proposed by the UK Clinical Ethics Network and comprises three presentations, we explore the roles that might be played not only by courts, but also by clinical ethics committees (CECs), in seeking to resolve such disputes:

Clinics, Courtrooms, Committees and Critically Ill Children: Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities: Dr Giles Birchley and Professor Richard Huxtable (chair), University of Bristol.  

Drawing on empirical data, we compare the respective strengths and weaknesses of the courts and CECs as fora for addressing ethical disputes in UK paediatric care. We then proceed to assess the merits of “specialist” clinical ethics support in this context.

Children’s Health Queensland – Consultative Case Models: When Health Professionals and Families Disagree: Associate Professor Helen Irving, University of Queensland, Australia

Parents’ legal and moral authority to make decisions on behalf of their children is not absolute, as the “best interests” of the child are paramount. Health professionals, parents and young people will not always agree on what is “best”: best interests are subjective, related to values and preferences, which may change throughout the course of a child’s illness. Shared decision-making involving good communication and respect is a useful framework to establish the goals and values of the child and family. When differences and disagreements continue, there is a role for clinical ethics consultations and deliberations.

Is There a Role for CECs in Handling Requests for Compassionate and Innovative Treatments?: Dr Vic Larcher, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

As increasing use of global communication and social media mean that patients and carers have access to sometimes unproven treatments for which unsubstantiated claims are made, how should requests, often made in desperate circumstances, for compassionate use of innovative and experimental treatments be addressed? The process of assessment and regulation of new therapies is often considered slow and cumbersome and CECs may be approached to provide a view as to whether such treatments are ethical; in so doing, they may circumvent the regulatory process with claimed adverse consequences and may, out of compassion, paradoxically support unethical practice. 

Page created: February 9, 2018