College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Edinburgh Medical Debates launched

Edinburgh Medical School and the Edinburgh Medical Students Council joined forces to launch a brand new series of medical themed debates to a capacity crowd.

Joint initiative

The inaugural Edinburgh Medical Debate took place in the grand Playfair Library, Old College on Tuesday September 22nd 2015. It was a joint initiative between Edinburgh Medical School and Edinburgh Medical Students Council to launch a series of invigorating and challenging debates. The event was chaired by Ed Tulloch, Convenor of the Medical Students Council and Professor Jane Norman, Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health.

The motion

A panel representing Medicine, Law and the Edinburgh student body debated the motion: "This house believes that “Montgomery vs Lanarkshire” erodes doctors' clinical judgment in communicating with patients about their treatment, and will compromise patient care."

The panel

Speaking in favour of the motion were Dr Sarah Cooper, Consultant Obstetrician, and Mr Louis Resnick, Year 5 Edinburgh Medical Student. Speaking against were Mr Andrew Smith QC, representative of the GMC in the case, and Dr Sarah Chan, Chancellor's Fellow, Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics. 

Supreme Court ruling

The case, recently debated in the Supreme Court, concerned a complication of birth called shoulder dystocia in a baby whose mother has diabetes. The trauma resulted in cerebral palsy, a neurological condition affecting movement and coordination. The mother subsequently claimed damages because doctors did not inform her about the increased risk due to diabetes. The Supreme Court upheld the mother's case and allowed her to recover damages on behalf of her child.

Real issues facing doctors

Issues such as patient consent are well-taught to medical undergraduates in the lecture theatre, but in real-life situations the right course of action is often more difficult to determine. How much information is enough? What is the danger of scaring the patient away from beneficial treatments because of a rare, yet serious, side effect? These questions, amongst others, were discussed by the four panellists.

Challenged and informed

The 280 strong audience got involved in the discussion with questions to the panel and also by participating in two opportunities to vote on the motion. It was apparent that the debate both challenged and informed those attending. Interestingly, at the beginning of the evening numbers voting for and against the motion were equal with the majority abstaining.  By the end of the debate, the vast majority felt able to either agree or disagree with the motion, with those voting against in the slight majority.

This exciting news series provides a wonderful opportunity for staff, students and members of the public to engage on crucial ethical issues affecting real-life patient care.

Ed TullochConvenor, Edinburgh Medical Students Council

Continued conversations

The event proved a valuable opportunity for doctors, lawyers, students and members of the public to engage on a crucial ethical issue that affects real-life patient care. The reception afterwards enabled discussions between staff, students and fellow attendees to continue long after the final vote had been cast, fulfilling the hope of the organisers for this event and the debates to follow. We look forward to the next Edinburgh Medical Debate and hope that you will be able to join us.