Mark O'Kane

Mark O'Kane

BA Biomedical Ethics

Summary: Mark studied BA Biomedical Ethics as part of his medical course.

I’m a fourth year medical student at the University of Leeds. I studied Biomedical Ethics at the IDEA CETL between my third and fourth year of my medical course.

I’ve always found philosophical discussion very stimulating and I knew I would participate in many of these discussions throughout the course. I hoped that studying the course material would equip me with practical tools for my future career in medicine, e.g. critical appraisal, an open-minded nature and an ability to empathise with a greater range of patients’ moral outlooks, beliefs and perspectives. Biomedical Ethics includes very topical subjects such as euthanasia and assisted suicide, which are now regularly brought into the public eye by cases such as Tony Nicklinson. There is clearly a need for health care professionals, and society as a whole, to discuss these cases and attempt to find the best solutions. I believe it is a doctor’s duty to be ethically competent as well as intellectually and practically competent. By ‘ethical competence’ I mean an awareness of the moral dimensions of situations that can arise in the healthcare setting, such as the optimal care of a terminally ill patient in intractable pain. I think ethical incompetence/unawareness is potentially as damaging to patients as a physician’s intellectual incompetence or a surgeon’s practical incompetence.

I found seminars on my course both intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. The seminars were appropriately flexible – there was a list of topics/issues to cover in each seminar however we would often continue to discuss a particular topic at length if that was of interest to the group. I really enjoyed reading the set literature throughout the course. The reading ranged from classical papers by Aristotle and Plato to currently
active moral philosophers such as Peter Singer. Reading this range of literature was really interesting and engaging. Whilst studying at the IDEA CETL  I was most struck by the welcoming nature of all the staff at IDEA including the administrative team.

Outside of studying, the union is home to a wide range of clubs and societies, in which students of any age and background can become involved. I joined the cross-country running club last year and travelled to various other universities to compete for the University over the course of the year. I also tried out other societies, including Medsin; a campaigning society focussed on addressing global health inequalities.

Having completed the BA Biomedical Ethics course I plan to continue with my medical course and I am due to graduate in July 2015. In the meantime I will try to build on the skills I gained during my intercalated degree by becoming involved in the Leeds Student Clinical Ethics Committee (due to start next year). Looking further ahead I may “top-up” my BA to an MA by undertaking a dissertation on a topic in healthcare ethics.