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Discovery

299 EpisodesProduced by BBC World ServiceWebsite

Explorations in the world of science.

27:31

Patient Undone

Professor Deborah Bowman reveals how a diagnosis of cancer has transformed her view of medical ethics and what it means to be a patient.

As Professor of Ethics and Law at St George's, University of London, Deborah has spent the past two decades teaching and writing about medical ethics, the moral principles that apply to medicine.

It's taken her down countless hospital corridors, to the clinics and the wards where medical ethics plays out in practice, behind closed doors, supporting healthcare practitioners and their patients to negotiate uncertainty and conflict.

This is the field of clinical ethics and, each time, the 'patient' has been central to her response.

Yet in the autumn of 2017, everything changed. Deborah was diagnosed with breast cancer and it signalled the beginning of her undoing, not just personally but professionally too, playing havoc with what she thought she knew about clinical ethics.

Patient autonomy - literally 'self-rule'- is one of its cornerstones - a patient's right to make decisions about their healthcare. So what does autonomy mean if the 'self', she thought she knew, was so changeable and confusing?

Deborah returns to the Royal Marsden Hospital where she is a patient, to explore this - with both her personal and professional hats on.

Producer: Beth Eastwood

Main Image: Deborah Bowman. Copyright: Deborah Bowman

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