by Zahra Jaffer and Lynn Kennedy
As part of the Festival of Creative Learning (FCL), we hosted the event: The Dissection of Medical Dramas. This interactive workshop used popular television medical dramas and role-play to identify and discuss the relevant ethical issues that arise in the medical context. The workshop specifically focused on issues of consent and the provision of treatment.
Our aim in organising this event was to introduce participants to issues of medical law and ethics in an interactive and accessible manner. In the first segment of the event, we used clips from popular television series such as Grey's Anatomy, Chicago Med and Scrubs to identify and discuss a wide range of issues, such as, the refusal of treatment in late pregnancy, Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) orders and treatment of patients with body dysmorphic disorder. The role-play segment was designed in a way that required participants to use the skills and information they learned from the first segment to identify and discuss issues in the role-play segment. We used television medical dramas and role-play because these mediums are easily accessible and engaging methods that would allow us to provide a fun and interactive workshop that would appeal to a wide audience. By using these mediums, we were celebrating creative learning methods, which was in line with the spirit of FCL.
There were three key points that we wanted participants to take away from our event:
1. A competent adult’s right to refuse medical treatment and the evolving approach to a pregnant woman’s right to refuse treatment
2. The differences in the approaches to consent and refusal of treatment in relation to children and mature minors
3. Issues relating to when advance decisions are upheld
We raised these issues by showing participants relevant clips from the television series and then we asked their opinions regarding them. We developed the discussions further by using a number of methods, such as by positing ‘what if’ questions or by first discussing the legal position on the matter and then asking participants for their views on the position. The participants were very engaged and we had some illuminating discussions on the various issues raised, such as:
1. Questions regarding the cessation of treatment versus actively bringing about the death of the patient in context of withdrawal of life support from a braindead patient. In turn, this raised questions concerning euthanasia and the distinction between acts and omissions.
2. In relation to a pregnant woman’s right to refuse treatment, a participant observed that by not giving a pregnant woman the same rights as any other competent adult to refuse treatment, we would be limiting the woman’s autonomy and would be attempting to give legal rights to a foetus.
3. In relation to the consent to treatment in the cases of children, participants raised the topical issue of vaccination. One of the participants pointed out that in Greece, parents have no legal authority to refuse to vaccinate their children. We were therefore able to learn about the approach of other jurisdictions on the matter.
We were very pleased to have such a good turnout and a highly engaged audience that raised thought-provoking discussions. The feedback from the event was positive, which suggests that the University of Edinburgh student community has interest in medical law and ethics issues and discussing this in an interactive, media-supported manner. Since this event was designed to aid learning in the area of medical law and ethics, we were delighted to see that all participants who provided feedback gave the event a high score on its usefulness, and that all stated that they learnt something new and that they would recommend the event to others. Overall, this has been a wonderful and a highly rewarding experience.