Blog

Only showing posts tagged with 'Law' Show all blog posts

Artificial wombs: an ethical exploration

by YPU Admin on February 1, 2019, Comments. Tags: healthcare, Humanities, and Law

My name is Chloe and I’m a second year PhD student, funded by the Wellcome Trust, in Bioethics and Medical Law at the University of Manchester. I finished my A Levels in Physics, Biology and Chemistry in 2011, but having decided science wasn’t for me I took a gap year to think about what I wanted to do next. During my time off I decided to go in a completely different direction and applied to the University of Manchester to study Law. I started my degree in 2012 and I loved it! I was still interested in some of the ethical issues surrounding science and so during my degree I took modules in Medical Law and Mental Health Law and I wrote my dissertation about Caesarean Sections.


After my undergraduate degree I received a scholarship from Manchester to take my Masters in Healthcare Law and Ethics in 2015. In 2017 I started my PhD also in the School of Law at Manchester. My PhD is about artificial wombs and the impact of this technology on the law and ethics of reproduction and pregnancy.

IN DEPTH

Artificial womb technology is currently being developed as a replacement for conventional neonatal intensive care. Current methods of intensive care for premature babies cannot aid babies born before 22 weeks because their lungs are not developed enough for assisted ventilation. Intensive care also cannot always prevent premature neonates from developing life-threatening infections during treatment or serious long-term health problems as a result of being born premature. Artificial wombs might be the future solution to mortality and morbidity amongst premature babies. Artificial wombs are designed to mimic the conditions of the womb and effectively  ‘take over’ the process of gestation. An artificial womb treats a premature baby as if it had never been born. Artificial wombs should ‘sidestep’ the common complications caused by, or not prevented by, conventional methods of care. In 2017 there was a successful animal trial of an experimental artificial womb-like device; the ‘biobag.’ The scientists that invented this device have suggested they are only years away from considering human trials of the biobag.


My PhD is by publication, which means that rather than writing a traditional thesis I am writing and publishing a series of articles on my subject that I’ll put together into a thesis at the end. In reproduction science and medicine there are often rapid advances in technology and the law struggles to keep up. Academic research plays a really important role in highlighting the insufficiencies of the law at addressing ethical issues with these new technologies. Writing for publication gives me so much flexibility, and publishing helps me get stuck into, and generate, academic debate right now and help ensure my research has impact. I’m very lucky!

Most days, I spend my time reading and writing in our postgrad research office. I try to write a little something every day so I don’t get out of the habit. I’m also a teaching assistant in the school of law: so one day a week I spend teaching first year students criminal and contract law. I’m hoping to stay in academic when I’ve finished my PhD because I really enjoy both teaching and research.

GOING FURTHER

If you are interested in my research you can read this blog post about some of my work on the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog: https://blogs.bmj.com/medical-ethics/2018/08/11/artificial-wombs-a-shift-in-approach-to-neonatal-intensive-care-and-beyond/

You can also read my first research paper (it’s free because it is open access) here: https://jme.bmj.com/content/44/11/751

For a brief summary of the science behind artificial wombs: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/fluid-filled-biobag-allows-premature-lambs-develop-outside-womb

You can also follow my research on my Twitter: https://twitter.com/ECRomanis

For more information about Bioethics, Health and the Law at Manchester: https://www.law.manchester.ac.uk/research/themes/bioethics-health-and-law/


 

How we think, and how we think we think, and what does it have to do with financial regulation?

by YPU Admin on April 20, 2017, Comments. Tags: Banking, Behavioural Economics, Humanities, Law, PhD, Policy, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Elena and I’m a second year PhD student at the University of Manchester School of Law. I research the ways in which the ideas of how people think and make decisions impact regulation of banks and banks’ handling of risk. This is an important matter because banks have a significant place in the economies of most countries, and their behaviour is key to the economic and financial welfare of society.


How I got here

I completed a 4-year law degree in Russia, after which I decided to continue my education in the UK. After a law conversion course (GDL) I enrolled on an International Business and Commercial Law Masters programme at the University of Manchester. I was particularly attracted to the financial regulation module because of the enormous impact financial services have on society – the crisis of 2008 being a stark example. One of the lectures included a small bit about behavioural economics – a study of how our psychological traits influence our purchasing, investing, and other economic decisions. I thought that that was a fascinating topic – and after reading more about it, decided to do a PhD on it even though I had never considered becoming a researcher before.

In Depth

To make any (not necessarily economic) decisions, our brain needs to process large amounts of information in a short amount of time. Processing all of it in a comprehensive manner would require a lot of mental effort. Considering the amount of decisions we make on a daily basis, if every one of them required a lot of time and effort we would not be able to function normally. To rectify that, our brain developed thought patterns that help us to process information quicker. One of those thought patterns is called ‘availability heuristic’. When thinking about a certain topic or the probability of an event happening, our mind immediately refers to the most prominent belief or a vivid piece of information in our memory. This can cause a mistake in judgement. For example, people start worrying about a possible earthquake a lot more if they recently saw an earthquake report in the media. Another example is people estimating the crime rate in the area a lot higher after seeing a murder report on TV. And these are just a couple of examples – there are many thought patterns, or heuristics, that make our decision-making easier but also make us make mistakes along the way.

For a large part of the 20th century, the common academic opinion was that people tend to be rational, process all available information in a comprehensive way, and only make the most beneficial decisions for themselves. This approach became popular with governments as well, particularly in the US and the UK. This view resulted in designing policies and regulations that were aimed at those perfectly rational individuals. When confronted with human irrationality, government regulations and policies failed because people did not act as they were expected to. This was a part of the reason for the 2008 crisis.

Now that academic and government circles have largely accepted inherent human irrationality, policies can be adjusted to reflect the reality of human behaviour. In some areas – for example, consumer protection – there is a lot of progress. But others, such as financial regulation, require a lot of modification to reflect the true nature of human decision-making. My research aims to make regulation of banks more effective by designing a behavioural framework of board-level financial decision-making that can be used as a policy foundation.

Going Further

I enjoy my research because I find learning about how humans make decisions, and how the way our brain works influences the law, fascinating. Here are some interesting websites where you can learn more about this area:

https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/introduction-to-be/ - a comprehensive introduction to behavioural economics, including the primary research in the field.

https://hbr.org/2009/07/the-end-of-rational-economics - a Harvard Business Review article explaining the role of the presumption of rationality played in economics.

https://www.ft.com/content/9d7d31a4-aea8-11e3-aaa6-00144feab7de - a Financial Times article on applications of behavioural insights in public policy.

http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk - Behavioural Insights Team’s website. It’s a social purpose company partly owned by the UK government that is dedicated to devising ways to apply the insights of behavioural science to public policy.

http://nudges.org - a blog about choice architecture.

 

Law and Ethics and Medicine: How do they relate?

by YPU Admin on July 21, 2016, Comments. Tags: Law, medicine, Research, university, and UoM

Introduction

Hello, my name is Jessica Azmy and I am a medical student at the University of Manchester. This year I am taking a year away from my medical studies and studying for a Masters in Healthcare Law and Ethics, before returning to my final year of medical school. I will hopefully then graduate as a doctor!

In Depth

It may seem strange to be completing a Masters at this stage and I never imagined when I started Medicine that this is something I would do. During medical school I was intrigued by the relationship between the law and medical practice because it seemed to be relevant in all areas. I often found doctors referring to what the law does and does not allow and wanted to explore this further. I am really interested in certain areas such as the law determining whether children can or cannot refuse medical treatment that doctors feel is best for them. The main aim is to consider what the law currently says and what it should say, if we lived in an ideal world. Of course doctors need to know the law to avoid being taken to court, if something goes wrong!


What the law should say comes down to fundamental questions which are captured by the ethics part of my course. For example, the reason why doctors must always ask whether we agree (consent) to medical treatment is because we are human beings that have the ability to decide for ourselves what we want. The exploration of why doctors should act in certain ways and whether it is right or wrong to take a particular course of action is a constant source of debate and there is rarely one ‘correct’ answer. This is what I like most because it makes me consider my own views and learn to argue these in a way to persuade other people to agree with my argument. Some of the areas I have considered include organ donation and whether this should or should not be a choice, whether scientists should be able to experiment on humans, and the problems arising from creating human-animal hybrids (mixture of human and animal tissue).

What’s the point?

With constant advances in science and technology creating new possibilities in healthcare there is a need to consider what we should and shouldn’t allow. How would you feel if you could choose the characteristics of your future child – their hair colour, eye colour and even intelligence? Do you think everyone should be an organ donor? Should doctors be allowed to end the life of a patient who is suffering terribly? Should doctors ever keep information from patients to prevent upsetting them? These are some of the pressing questions that ethics aims to address! The issues are often on the news making what I am studying even more relevant and interesting.

I am not sure what type of doctor I want to be in the future but the best thing about law and ethics is that it is relevant to all areas of medical practice and will hopefully help me with whatever speciality I go into. I hope to also use my Masters to teach future medical students about the law and perhaps offer advice in legal cases involving doctors.

Going further

To explore a wide range of ethical dilemmas in science visit:

http://www.beep.ac.uk/content/1.0.html

For a greater look at the ethics surrounding gene technology:

http://www.beep.ac.uk/content/457.0.html

To look at what is involved in creating human-animal hybrids (mixing human and animal tissues):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/animals/using/hybridembryos_1.shtml

Watch this video for a general introduction to ethics (not specific to science):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAuv0HujFbc

Really interesting video comparing ethics in science and arts and giving more information on why we make decisions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO4mgCDtMXs&ebc=ANyPxKo8q0_849gLcXpPdKXw1t5vLgBlb1B-7rnzhJTjbOldWhebYT-Dpg3N7M3YTrysw2s7y3aD9RB_99TdaFjtCfkamFPsOw


 

Money Money Money: How do banks do it?

by YPU Admin on March 31, 2016, Comments. Tags: Banking, finance, Humanities, Law, Money, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Max and I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester School of Law. I have been a university student for the past 6 years now and I have really enjoyed my experience. University provides you with the opportunity of learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing a new environment, and finding what it is you want to do in life. For me, particularly the last question has always been difficult: it took me a long time to realise what I wanted to do in life, but pursuing a masters degree after my undergraduate degree gave me an idea. I decided to do research in financial services regulation. I will give you an idea of what this entails. It’s all about money.



In Depth

Financial services significantly affect all members of society. You all use money to pay for different things, such as clothes, shoes, sweets, books etc. If it wasn’t for the financial services industry, money wouldn’t be readily available in the form that we use it today. Let me give you an example:

I imagine that some of you have bank accounts in which you can place your money. You can save money in your bank account and later withdraw it if you decide to spend it. This is referred to as a ‘deposit’, as you deposit your money in your bank account. Your bank can then use this money to create loans to give out to different people. A loan is simply an agreement between a bank and an individual or a company. The bank gives the individual a sum of money and the individual agrees to pay the money back over a certain period of time. For the bank to benefit from this transaction, the individual is required to pay an additional sum of money over the time period. It is up to the individual to decide what to do with the money they receive. They can spend it on clothes, shoes, sweets, books, or something substantially bigger like a car or a house. This bank, therefore, made money readily available to the individual. The money that you deposited is also still available to you. You can withdraw it at any time. All banks put together make up the financial services industry. They are an important part of the money available to us. They significantly influence how money is readily available to all members of society.


This seems like a good thing doesn’t it? Sadly, however, this system comes with its problems. Consider this: what if the individual is unable to repay their loan within the time period agreed upon? What if the bank gives out so many loans that there is no money left for you to withdraw when you want to? How does the bank decide who is suitable to receive a loan? Does the bank use any other means to finance its loans? All of these questions are addressed in financial services regulation. Research in this area essentially tries to make the financial services industry reliable and stable so that money is as readily available as described above. Many of the issues get very complex. It can be very difficult for researchers to keep up with everything that happens in the financial services industry. This is precisely why I believe this to be an interesting research area. New developments arise constantly that require addressing. Different researchers come up with different ways of addressing these issues. I have found myself able to add my own thoughts to this interesting area. It is a very rewarding experience.

Going further

Here is a YouTube link to an interesting explanation of banking – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqD3hnjZBTM


 

Social media as a learning tool

Introduction

My name is Laura, and I am taking a year away from being a medical student to complete a masters in Health Care Ethics and Law. Medical schools call this year out an "intercalation year" and offers it to all medical students interested in earning an extra science-related degree on top of their current medical degree. In my fourth-year at medical school, I started a research project to explore how medical students used social media to achieve their learning goals. Is there a place for social media in an academic institution at all? Can social media actually benefit students rather than be a distraction? This was what I wanted to find out. Right now, the study has gone international with medical schools as far as Australia, North America, Saudi Arabia and many more taking part!


In Depth

I think it is safe to say that most of you are on some sort of social media website, whether that is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. At the very least you will have heard of them. Mostly they are used for leisure purposes, but could they also offer some learning benefits?

For a while now, higher education institutions have adopted social media technology as a means of delivering curricula. Medicine is a discipline that has only just started to look into this possibility. Our research study has identified several ways in which social media is currently used to facilitate curricula delivery and supplement independent learning:

-  Creating Facebook groups with peers to extend small group seminar discussions to the online world

-  Sharing of academic resources and journals via social media

-  Fast, effective communication channels between peers and lecturers irrespective of classroom hours and physical location

-  Following hastags on Twitter appropriate to the subject they are learning

-  Searching YouTube videos for practical procedure demonstrations or tutorials

-  Instagram-like applications available to doctors and medical students where they can share and discuss pictures of clinical examination findings, blood test results, chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, MRI/CT scans etc.

-  Using interactive twitter feeds in classrooms to answer students' questions and encourage participation

The list could go on. The body of research literature available to date indicates there are positive outcomes to the implementation of social media technology into the medical curriculum which outweighs any drawbacks - increased motivation and engagement with study material, increased likelihood of seeking academic support, improved exam scores, improved confidence with the subject and better knowledge retention. The study is still ongoing and the next phase will involve investigating whether attitudes towards social media use in medical education differs between countries or cultures. 


Going Further

To find out more about studying medicine at undergraduate level or doing an intercalation year, see:

Manchester Medical School http://www.mms.manchester.ac.uk

Intercalation year http://www.mms.manchester.ac.uk/about-us/whymanchester/education/intercalation/