Clinical Ethics Consultation in the United Kingdom

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Sheila A.M. McLean


The system of clinical ethics committees (CECs) in the United Kingdom is based on goodwill. No formal requirements exist as to constitution, membership, range of expertise or the status of their recommendations. Healthcare professionals are not obliged to use CECs where they exist, nor to follow any advice received. In addition, the make-up of CECs suggests that ethics itself may be under-represented. In most cases, there is one member with a training in ethics – the rest are healthcare professionals or administrators, although a lawyer is generally also included in the membership. This begs the question as whether CECs can ‘do ethics’, as well whether or not they can take seriously the requirements of due process, formal justice and human rights. Moreover, the role of the patient in this system is opaque.


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How to Cite
McLean, Sheila A.M. 2009. “Clinical Ethics Consultation in the United Kingdom”. Diametros, no. 22 (December):76-89.
Special topic - Clinical Ethics Committees
Author Biography

Sheila A.M. McLean

Sheila A.M. McLean, LLB., MLitt, PhD, LLD, LLD, FRSE, FRCGP, FMedSci, FBS, FRCP(Edin), FRSA Professor McLean is the first holder of the International Bar Association Chair of Law and Ethics in medicine at Glasgow University. She is Co-Director of the Centre for Applied Ethics and Legal Philosophy (incorporating the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine) at Glasgow University. She has acted as a consultant to the World Health Organisation, The Council of Europe and a number of individual states, and is a member of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO. She has published extensively in the area of medical law and ethics.
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