Sowerby Essay Contest – 2017
Decision-Making Capacity: Who’s to say?
The law uses the concept of decision-making capacity (or competence) to determine whether a person’s decision to, for example, refuse medical treatment, should be respected. If a person can express a decision, understand the relevant information, appreciate how it applies to his case, and use and weigh it in deliberation, then he has decision-making capacity, and the refusal should be respected as his to make, and otherwise not.
Can one person judge of another person whether she has decision-making capacity without prejudice? For example, can we judge whether a patient has decision-making capacity without resting on the fact that their preference not to be treated is not what we judge to be in their best interests, or not what we think we would have wanted had we been in their shoes? Why or why not?
Eligibility: Students and alumni of all University of London schools, including undergraduate and postgraduate, and medical and professional schools.
Length: less than 4,000 words
Due: 18 October 2017
Submission: Prepare your paper for blind review by making sure your name does not appear anywhere in the pages of the file, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Essays will be assessed by a panel of six distinguished academics from the University of London, chaired by Dr Tuomas Pernu.
The prize will be awarded at the Third Annual Sowerby Lecture in Philosophy and Medicine on 9 November 2017.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does the 4,000 word limit include references?
No. It doesn’t include references, but it does include footnotes.
2. Can two people submit an essay they write together?
Yes, papers may be co-authored as long as all authors fulfil the eligibility criteria.
3. Should the essay take a philosophical or scientific or clinical approach?
Philosophical, scientific, clinical, historical, psychological, and other factors may all be relevant to your answer to the question. The important thing is that the essay give an answer to the question and a thoughtful defence of that answer, and use a clear writing style without jargon. An approach to avoid is that of a book report or literature review.
4. What should the title be?
That is up to the author. You may want to tailor the title to your own answer to the question, or you may want simply to title it “Decision-Making Capacity: Who’s to say?”.
5. What does a winning essay look like?
You can see past winning essays here.