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Gemma Skilton, a final year medical student at the University of Birmingham, received an IME grant to present her paper at the 13th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics & Health Law, Jerusalem, Nov 2018

Read her report below as an example of the IME enabling students to participate in an international conference & to hear diverse views on important topics.

In November of this year, I received a conference grant from the IME that allowed me to travel to Jerusalem in order to present my research at the 13th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law. This was a 3-day conference that took place from the 27-29th November 2018. As a medical student at the University of Birmingham I had previously completed an intercalated degree in Healthcare Ethics and Law. It was during this degree that I conducted the research which I was then able to deliver during my oral presentation at this conference. Thus, as a medical student with an intercalated degree in this field, I was incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity not only to present my own work but also to learn from many other like-minded people presenting their own research on varied topics within the field of healthcare ethics and law.

This conference offered over 500 presentations across more than 60 topics and subtopics, with presenters coming from 63 different countries. The sheer size, variety and international nature of the conference made for an amazing and unique experience. Never before had I had the opportunity to hear from such a diverse group of people about the many different ethical and legal issues affecting them in all different parts of the world. As just one example, the ethics of psychiatric assessment to possess firearms is an ethical issue that seldom requires reflection in the UK, however the application of these issues in the USA was a novel consideration for me. Particularly poignant was the phrase coined by the presenter, a psychiatrist working in the USA, “I cannot take your guns away from you, but I can take you away from your guns”. The enriching opportunity to consider different international perspectives on medical ethics and law served to further my already great interest in this field. Not only this, the conference also presented the opportunity to consider ethical issues within other fields than medical ethics such as immigration ethics and the ethical responsibilities within migration policies.

 

As outlined, this conference really opened my eyes to a diverse range of ethical issues which I had not previously reflected upon. However, given that I was also there to present my own research, my experience of the conference in relation to this cannot go without reflection. The topic of my research was based upon the informed consent process for the implantation of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and whether discussing deactivation ought to make up a part of this. Consequently, I found several of the informed consent themed sessions incredibly engaging and thought provoking in relation to the background of my own research. For example, one delegate delivered her legal analysis of “the hidden paternalism in Montgomery” which was particularly interesting to reflect upon given that an analysis of UK case law on informed consent made up a section of my own research. I was very lucky to have been accepted not only to give an oral presentation but also to co-chair the session in which I was presenting, both of which were new experiences to me. I was one of five presenters in my session themed around informed consent. Two delegates, both from Israel, presented on the topic of the readability standards of informed consent and health literacy level. Another delegate, from South Africa, presented his research regarding informed consent for Biobank research. Finally, the fourth delegate, also from University of Birmingham, presented the ethical issues around gaining informed consent for complex procedures. This experience has been valuable firstly, in assisting the development of my presentation skills. Secondly, in allowing me to share my research with international experts and to hear about their research in turn, using this exposure to further refine my ideas and ethical understanding of the different concepts and issues around informed consent.

The sheer size and variety of this conference made for a truly unforgettable experience. Whilst at times its size and diversity felt a little overwhelming, this was only because there were so many talks to visit that one wished that they could somehow be in several places at once! It was a real inspiration and privilege to be amongst such a wide array of people all so passionate about medical ethics and law and I would thoroughly recommend this conference to all medical students with such an interest like myself. I am incredibly grateful to the IME for the support they have given me which allowed me to do this.