Forum History


A small professional group founded the Forum in the UK in the mid 1980’s, when Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors, revealed the extensive involvement of the German medical profession in the Nazi extermination programme and in unethical human experimentation. Could such unethical professional collusion occur in this country? Founder members included Sir Douglas Black, Sir Sandy Macara, Professor Stuart Horner, and Professor Meg Stacey.

The Forum began as informal round table meetings. In the 1990’s, the Forum widened its membership and scope of concern/discourse but remained independent, multidisciplinary and non-profit making. For several years Gresham College provided funding for the Forum.

Around 2004, the Forum changed its name to the Healthcare Ethics Forum and ran a very successful conference at the RSM and three successful conferences at Imperial College (see list below). Since 2012, with agreement of the committee, the Forum has reverted back to its original title to reflect the growing concern regarding dehumanisation and lack of compassion in healthcare in the UK, as evidenced by several official and media reports, anecdotes and surveys.

Issues explored by the Forum include:

  • Immortality, Biology and Computers. 7th May 1996. Professor Zigmond Bauman.
  • Genetic population screening: Problems and Prospects - 8th October 1996. Dr Theresa Marteau and Dr Angus Clarke.
  • Euthanasia. 3rd December 1996. Lord Walton of Detchant TD.
  • Lessons from Nazism: nursing then and now. 21st March 1998.  Professor Hilde Steppe, and Professor Kath Melia.
  • Asylum seekers and “illegal immigrants”: professional values and legal boundaries. 2nd December 1998.  Sir David Ramsbotham [HM Chief inspector of prisons], Dr Jill Hinchlewood, [Medical Foundation for victims of torture] and others.
  • Patient confidentiality: an outmoded concept in the new IT age? - 8th Dec 1999. Mr Peter Drury, Policy Unit, DOH
  • Medical Education and the promotion of human values. 14th June 2000. Professor Alastair Campbell.
  • Humanitarian disaster relief: intrusion or moral imperative? (In Association with the Open Section of the RSM). 1st October 2001. Professor Donna Dickenson, Dr Jack Piachaud & others.
  • War, Justice and Public Health. 25th June 2003.  Professor Richard Norman. Dr Carolyn Stephens.
  • Body parts for sale. The ethics of live organ donation, infertility treatment and embryo research. 23rd April 2004. Imperial College London.
  • Exploiting the Dead? The use of human cadavers for research, teaching and spare parts. April 22nd 2005. Imperial College London.
  • Designing Human Life. 30th March 2006. Imperial College London.
  • Compassion in Healthcare. November 2012With the Open Section,  Royal Society of Medicine.