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I and all my friends were astonished that I was elected President of the BMA – but of course I am enormously grateful.
The one-year role is essentially honorific - handing out prizes, attending committee meetings, going to conferences, having a few splendid dinners, and being a sort of ambassador for the BMA - but the most exciting aspect is that I was invited to suggest a ‘Presidential project’.
As a retired part time NHS GP and retired part time academic in medical ethics, I am something of a professional hybrid. My project is fairness and justice in medical ethics - which the BMA has kindly agreed to support.
The first part of this project was to ask the BMA to try to convince the WMA (World Medical Association) to add a sentence about fairness and justice to its contemporary version of the Hippocratic Oath (its Declaration of Geneva) and also to the companion document, the International Code of Medical Ethics.
The proposed sentence is ‘I shall strive to practise fairly and justly throughout my professional life’.
It looks as though things are beginning to progress along these lines as far as the current revision of the International Code of Medical Ethics is concerned.
It will be a long time before the Declaration of Geneva is next revised – it happens about every ten years with the last revision taking place in 2017 when among other revisions the WMA added respect for patients’ autonomy to the declaration.
Getting a commitment to strive to be fair and just is the relatively easy bit.
The much more difficult part is to say what we mean by that! Well to help elucidate that the BMA has also supported two additional parts to my project.
The first is this essay prize asking people to explain what they mean by that and to show how that explanation can have beneficial implications for a practical problem or problems encountered in NHS medical practice.
The second is to be a conference in June next year pursuing fairness and justice in medical practice from a variety of perspectives, again with beneficial practical implications for medical practice.
The essay competition is in two stages.
First, we are asking for a 500-word abstract or summary of what you would write if invited to submit a full essay. There will be ten prizes of £100 for the best summaries - provided that their authors actually submit a full essay.
The second part is a competition for the prize of £4,000 for the best full essay.
So do send us your abstracts and/or encourage others to do so.
Professor Raanan Gillon is President of the BMA
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