Sunday, 8 August 2010

Inside the Ethics Committee

On BBC Radio 4 there is a programme called Inside the Ethics Committee which tries to throw light on how ethical dilemmas in medicine are handled.

A recent programme focussed on the issue of how soon and how much you tell a child about a disease he or she is growing up with: clearly a difficult issue.

Much of the programme focused on a child born with HIV.

As the story unfolded it became clear that those responsible for her (she was being raised by the state) were colluding with:

her being sexually abused (sleeping around before reaching the age of 16, the age at which the law assumes she can first meaningfully give consent);

her risking infecting her boyfriends/abusers, as her ‘carers’ knew she was not telling them about her HIV status and did not have the skills to ‘negotiate’ her sexual encounters (ie they recognise the encounters were not consensual in a meaningful way);

her refusal to take the medication that would help her, not from any principled grounds, but on childish ones;

her life disintegrating into living in a chaotic and violent environment with a group of criminal young men addicted to various hard drugs.

And all because they assume that young girls of a certain social background will sleep around and be abused and there is nothing they can or should do about it.

That issue, of course, played no part in the ethical discussions...

And they call these people carers.