Last week I participated in a small conference organised by the Centre for Innovation and Leadership in Health Sciences, University of Southampton and run at the Royal College of Nursing. The conference theme was framed as follows:
“Ethical issues are a constant feature of everyday healthcare practice, yet the more commonplace concerns and choices encountered are much less well explored than are the big conceptual issues such as euthanasia or abortion. Recent inquiries into poor healthcare have identified and reinforced the need to listen to each other, to share perspectives and decision making, and to challenge assumptions and opinions. Understanding everyday responsibilities and obligations requires a radical rethink of how, when and with whom we learn about how to think and act in ethical ways
Contributions to the event may provoke thinking around, but not be limited by, such shared concerns as: How can agreement between different views be reached in practical ways regarding what is best for someone? Can values be taught and/or measured in everyday interactions and situations – and what are the implications of seeking to do so? How are multiple or conflicting obligations negotiated and prioritised, in partnership with patients, families and across disciplines? In what ways do cultural and organisational norms or pressures influence personal decisions and behaviours? What kind of learning and education promotes the internalising of ethical standards, and supports the ability to speak up, and/or to act in ethical ways? How do laws, policies, and professional codes impact on individual practices, helpfully or unhelpfully?”
The audience included ethicists, academic lawyers, healthcare professionals and medical educators.
Along with colleagues Dr Suzanne Shale and Dr Micheal Dunn, our session explored the ethical questions that arise when considering the use of hidden cameras and remote technologies in social care.
Recent debates about the rights and wrongs of using hidden cameras to prevent abuse in residential care settings have drawn attention to the challenges of providing personal care to vulnerable people in private places. There are different approaches to thinking about the ethics of remote technologies, and we explored how far these different approaches take us. A standard principles-driven analysis might weigh client privacy against concerns for their welfare, a socio-ethical analysis might focus on our understanding of behaviour in closed institutions, and a different approach again would ask how far using technologies intrudes into, supports, or reconfigures home life.