John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, November 19, 2006
  The Bolam Test and Medical Ethics
There has been some debate about Medical Ethics.

Since Nuremberg there has been the Nuremberg Code .

In essence in non-therapeutic research doctors are not allowed to Harm human beings to find out what happens.

It is more permissible when the research is supposed to benefit the patients.

The Bolam Test (see link) is a test for medical negligence. If a doctor harms a patient when trying to cure the patient then this is OK as long as it is something seen as a reasonable thing by other reasonable doctors.

So, in other words, a doctor can avoid a charge of medical negligence by finding another independent doctor who says that it was OK.

This, however, is not the same for harming patients as part of research where the actions taken were never anything like to benefit the patients.

The goes to the nub of the arguments about the research managed by Dr David Southall (it turns out he is no longer a professor).

The evidence is from published work as well as secret reports such as the Hull report that his research harmed the patients (mainly babies) in it.

The fact that some other doctors think that it ok does not get him off the hook.
The question is one as to whether the risks taken with the health of the babies concerned was reasonable in the circumstances and given the potential information obtained from the research. This is a legal test not one of medical opinion.
 
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