Clinical Unit in Ethics and Health Law (CUEHL)
The Clinical Unit in Ethics and Health Law (CUEHL) is a coalition of interested professionals from multiple disciplines including law, medicine, nursing, allied health, philosophy and sociology. This group also provides a forum for presentation and discussion of research in ethics and law, and discussions of clinical ethics problems. CUEHL enjoys support from the University of Newcastle and from Hunter New England Health through its Clinical Governance Unit.
Ethics and law is an important strand of the curriculum for the Bachelor of Medicine. Face-to-face teaching is provided in the form of fixed resource sessions and tutorials across Years 1 to 4.
The curriculum can be divided into a consideration of four kinds of issues:
- straightforward legal and ethical concepts that doctors and medical students must understand based on widely agreed principles (for example, informed consent, confidentiality, research ethics).
- controversial ethical dilemmas where widely agreed principles conflict (euthanasia, abortion, resource distribution)
- the philosophical underpinning of our moral beliefs
- professional behaviour issues where a doctor’s own interests may conflict with those of his or her patients.
The division between these issues is superficial, and the four kinds of issues overlap. Consistent with the philosophy of the BMed program, substantive issues are not dealt with at just one point in time. Rather, they are revisited, often more than once over the course, with discussions in early years being more principle-based and philosophical, and later discussions dealing with more complex clinical problems. Assessment includes mandatory attendance for some sessions; multiple choice questions for more straightforward legal and ethical issues; clinical assessments involving interviews of a role-playing patient followed by a viva voce examination of ethical and legal issues; and a video project on professional behaviour.
Research and teaching staff
Charles Douglas, FRACS B Med (Hons) BMed Sci (Hons Class I)
Lecturer in Clinical Ethics and Health Law Dr. Douglas is responsible for curriculum development and teaching to the BMed program. He is also a practicing breast cancer and melanoma surgeon, with VMO appointments at the Calvary Mater Hospital, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Private Hospitals.
Research interests include moral psychology, evolutionary aspects of morality, end-of-life decision making and informed consent. Dr. Douglas is currently writing his PhD on end-of-life decision making.
Hunter New England Health Clinical Governance Clinical Ethics (login access required)
Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine
The John McPhee Memorial Prize
John McPhee was a long-time member of CUEHL, and a highly-regarded member of the broader ethics and law community in Australia, who died in 2007. He was a true expert in his field of legal studies. He taught for many years at the University of Newcastle and collaborated on a number of books about health law. A prize is given in John’s name each year to the group of students in Year 2 of the BMed program producing the best video project on professional behaviour.