Balancing Best Interests in Medical Ethics and Law (BABEL)


  • Dr Richard Huxtable

    University of Bristol

Project summary

This project asks: How are the best interests of incapacitated patients interpreted and appliced in judicial decision-making? The aim is to establish whether or to what extent bioethical understandings of best interests are captured in law, and vice versa. This will involve exploring the (bio)ethical values associated with the best interests standard and the values captured in judge’s use(s) of this standard and the weighting(s) these acquire in the judicial balancing exercise.

The project examines decisions to treat a range of incapacitated patients, focusing on particular areas of bioethical controversy (eg sterilisation, vaccination, dementia care, and the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment). In addition to combined legal and bioethical analysis, which will be published, the project will prepare the way for a programme of research on best interests, by supporting networking and the preparation of bids. The programme will ask: how should the best interests of incapacitated patients be interpreted and applied in medico-legal decision-making? The programme will utilise integrated empirical bioethics methodologies and thus encompass documentary analysis, normative arguments and empirical enquiry.