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Inside the ethics committee. 2/4.

  • Bakewell, Joan.
  • Audio

About this work


Radio documentary presented by Joan Bakewell about ethical dilemmas, discussed with the help of a panel. In this episode medical judgement is at odds with religious faith. Ahmed Khan, who is 75 years old and a devout Muslim, has a heart attack and spends five months in hospital most of it in intensive care. He has serious complications and organ failures, but in between he rallies and appears to improve at times and is placed in a normal ward. After more serious complications there are conflicting views amongst the medical team as to whether he should return to intensive care, but he is readmitted. Mr. Khan's situation is now considered by the studio panel which consists of Dr. Andrew Gartle, a consultant in critical care and the former chair of the Clinical Ethics Committee at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and Ayesha Ahmad, a member of the Clinical Ethics Committee at Great Ormond Street Hospital focusing on religion and culture. Joan Bakewell asks why the medical team would be in two minds about this decision and a discussion follows over the purpose of intensive care and what physicians try to achieve there. They then look at Mr. Khan's case and discuss whether he is dying. The medical team discuss with the family whether they can start limiting treatment, but the family want treatment to continue and see Mr. Khan's life as being in god's hands. Mr. Khan cannot communicate meaningfully with the medical team so they now need to make the best informed choices in discussion with the family. They still want to limit treatment but the family disagrees and feels they're best placed to judge this. The programme returns to the panel and brings in Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt, an Islamic scholar and Muslim chaplin at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. He talks about Islamic beliefs concerning the end of life, and the legal and medical definition of treatment in Islam. What he says suggests that, in this case, the doctors are right. After seven months Mr Khan is now in his third stay in intensive care and the doctors still want to limit treatment as it is causing him pain. However, the family disagree and see the suffering differently because of their faith. The doctor contacted the Clinical Ethics Committee for their advice. The panel discuss this situation, along with financial and legal matters, and suffering. Joan Bakewell asks whether a life sustained by machines is a life which is then discussed from religious and medical points of view. The panel are asked what they would decide if they were on the Ethics Committee. The actual Clinical Ethics Committee advised the medical staff either to decide to limit his treatment within two weeks, or go to court to decide. However, some months later, long after the deadline, despite the medical team actively keeping him alive, his condition deteriorated further. Mr Khan eventually stopped responding and passed away after a short cardiac arrest from which it had been agreed he wouldn't be resuscitated. In total he was in hospital for ten months, nine in intensive care. Without intervention he would have died much earlier.


UK : BBC Radio 4, 2013.

Physical description

1 CD (42 min.)


Broadcast on 15th August, 2013.

Creator/production credits

Produced by Beth Eastwood, in association with the Open University ; presented by Joan Bakewell.

Copyright note

BBC Radio 4.



  • English

Where to find it

Permanent link