The Moral of the Tale: Stories, Trust, and Public Engagement with Clinical Ethics via Radio and Theatre

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 14 (1):43-52 (2017)
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Trust is frequently discussed with reference to the professional–patient relationship. However, trust is less explored in relation to the ways in which understanding of, and responses to, questions of ethics are discussed by both the “public” and “experts.” Public engagement activity in healthcare ethics may invoke “trust” in analysing a moral question or problem but less frequently conceives of trust as integral to “public engagement” itself. This paper explores the relationship between trust and the ways in which questions of healthcare ethics are identified and negotiated by both “experts” and the public. Drawing on two examples from the author’s “public engagement” work—a radio programme for the British Broadcasting Corporation and work with a playwright and theatre—the paper interrogates the ways in which “public engagement” is often characterized. The author argues that the common approach to public engagement in questions of ethics is unhelpfully constrained by a systemic disposition which continues to privilege the professional or expert voice at the expense of meaningful exchange and dialogue. By creating space for novel interactions between the “expert” and the “public,” authentic engagement is achieved that enables not only the participants to flourish but also contributes to trust itself.



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