MBBS Curriculum 2020

Annual Lecture

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Past Events

Annual Sowerby Lecture -- All Welcome
26 November 2015 - 18:30-20:00

“If I had to live like you, I think I’d kill myself”: Explaining the Disability Paradox

Lecture: Havi Carel, Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol
Comment: Brian Hurwitz, Professor of Medicine and the Arts, King’s College London
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The ‘disability paradox’ identifies a significant difference in how ill and disabled people rate their wellbeing, compared with healthy people asked to imagine how happy they would be if they were unwell. Ill and disabled people’s wellbeing rating is only slightly lower than that of healthy people. However, healthy people rate their hypothetical wellbeing as much lower when asked to imagine themselves as ‘hypothetical patients’. There are three possible explanations: either patients misreport their wellbeing due to adaptation, or healthy people mis-imagine ill-health, or both.


In this paper I examine these explanations and suggest that it is healthy people who misimagine ill-health. I also claim that it is impossible to claim that ill people are misreporting their wellbeing due to adaptaion without this having general consequences for any subjective wellbeing measurements. I also claim that the phenomenon of adaptation to illness raises important questions for health economics, and that the psycho-social mechanisms involved in adaptation can be illuminated by a phenomenological analysis.

Video Recording

2016 Annual Sowerby Lecture
24 November 2016 - 19:30-21:00

Medical Nihilism: Should we trust medical research?

Lecture: Jacob Stegenga – University of Cambridge History and Philosophy of Science
Comment: Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal


Many prominent physicians and journalists have expressed arguments supporting medical nihilism, which is the view that we should have little confidence in the effectiveness of novel medical interventions. In this talk I assess the case for medical nihilism. Salient arguments are based on the frequency of failed medical interventions, the extent of misleading and discordant evidence in clinical research, the sketchy theoretical framework on which many medical interventions are based, and the malleability of even the very best empirical methods employed in clinical research. To evaluate medical nihilism with care I articulate the general argument in formal terms. If we attend more broadly to our evidence, malleable methods, and background theories, and reason with our best inductive framework, then I argue that our confidence in the effectiveness of most medical interventions ought to be low.

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2017 Annual Sowerby Lecture
9 November 2017 - 19:30-21:00

Mental Health and Justice: Classical and Romantic perspectives

Lecture: Gareth Owen – King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience

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Video Recording


Psychiatry has long attracted interpretations from cool, detached perspectives valuing objectivity (Kraepelin, Freud, Beck) to hotter, embodied perspectives valuing subjectivity (Reil, Laing, Foucault).

These two perspectives (‘classical’ and ‘romantic’) are now expressing themselves in psychiatry’s meeting point with law with different approaches taken to the decision-making of the mentally ill. A recent ‘classical’ achievement in this area is the Mental Capacity Act (2005) which lays out a test of decision-making capacity within a legal framework that has been described as “a masterpiece of legal clarity”. A recent romantic achievement has been the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which emphatically asserts a social model of mental illness in which society, not the brain, is the true source of disabilities.

This lecture will probe the subjectivity of some disorders of mind and brain. What, for example, is it like to be a decision-maker under conditions of brain injury unaware of one’s deficits or a person with affective disorder fluctuating between experiences of the future as intensely dark and intensely bright? And how should others respond? It aims to use these forms of human experience to challenge the single mindedness of both classical and romantic perspectives and draw out implications for psychiatry as a branch of medicine interacting with law and society.


About the Speaker:

Dr Gareth Owen leads the Wellcome Trust funded Mental Health and Justice Project – a collaborative research endeavour spanning psychiatry, law, ethics, neuroscience and social science/public policy. The project takes an interdisciplinary approach to the core dilemma of respecting vs. protecting the decision-making of people with mental disabilities or disorders. He did undergrad studies in physics, philosophy and medicine and post grad psychiatry training at the Maudsley.

2018 Annual Sowerby Lecture
13 November 2018 - 19:30-21:00

Reflections on why I want what I want from research and researchers — as a patient

Lecture: Sir Iain Chalmers

Theatre 2, New Hunt’s House, KCL Guy’s Campus

Video Recording

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A quarter of a century ago, I decided to ask myself what I wanted—as a patient—from health research and researchers. In a BMJ paper I stated that I wanted decisions about my health care to be informed by ‘reliable evidence’. I also noted that people are bound to vary in what they regard as ‘reliable evidence’, and that a leap of faith would anyway always be needed in judging what the effects of health care options would be for me, as an individual. But I also made clear that, for me, ‘reliable evidence’ would usually mean evidence derived from systematic reviews of carefully controlled evaluative research, assembled with an awareness of the ways in which biases and the play of chance can play us false.

I suggested in the paper that there had been too little support for the kind of applied health research that I felt I needed to inform my health care choices. And I gave examples of the damaging consequences that can result from insufficient attention to reducing the effects of biases and the play of chance.

My lecture will revisit the themes I addressed 25 years ago and reflect on why—as a patient—I still want what I wanted from research and researchers quarter of a century ago.


About the Speaker:

Iain Chalmers was founding director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (www.npeu.ox.ac.uk) between 1978 and 1992, and founding director of the UK Cochrane Centre (www.uk.cochrane.org) between 1992 and 2002. Since 2003, he has coordinated the James Lind Initiative, which developed the James Lind Alliance between 2004 and 2013 (www.jla.nihr.ac.uk). Iain edits The James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org) and Testing Treatments international English (www.en.testingtreatments.org); he co-organised with Paul Glasziou the 2014 Lancet series on reducing waste and adding value in biomedical research (www.rewardalliance.net); and he is a co-investigator with Andy Oxman and colleagues in Norway and East Africa of the Informed Health Choices Project (www.informedhealthchoices.org).

2019 Annual Sowerby Lecture
7 November 2019 - 18:30-20:00

Are you your Brain?  Neuroscience and Neuromania

Lecture: Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci FRCP FRSA

Theatre 2, New Hunt’s House, KCL Guy’s Campus

Introduced by Lord Turnberg FRCP FMedSci, past president of the Royal College of Physicians.

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About the Speaker:

Raymond Tallis is a philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic, and a retired physician and clinical neuroscientist. He ran a large clinical service in Hope Hospital Salford and an academic department in the University of Manchester. His research focussed on epilepsy, stroke, and neurological rehabilitation.

He trained in medicine at Oxford University and at St Thomas’s in London before going on to become Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician. He was an editor and major contributor to two key textbooks in the field, The Clinical Neurology of Old Age and Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and author of over 200 original scientific articles, mainly in clinical neuroscience, including papers in Nature Medicine, Brain, Lancet. In 2000, he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in recognition of his contribution to medical research. Among many prizes, he was awarded the Lord Cohen Gold Medal for Research into Ageing. He played a key part in developing guidelines for the care of stroke patients in the UK. From 2011-14 he was Chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD). He has been a member of the Council of Royal College of Physicians since June 2016. He is a member of the criteria-setting group for the UK Research Excellence Framework 2021 in philosophy.

He has published fiction, poetry, and 25 books on the philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary and cultural criticism. Aping Mankind (2010) was reissued in 2016 as a Routledge Classic. Of Time and Lamentation. Reflections on Transience (2017)– is an inquiry into the nature of time. NHS SOS (2012), co-edited with Jacky Davis, examined the destructive impact of Tory policies on the NHS. Logos. An Essay on the Mystery of the Sense-Making Animal was published in Spring 2018. A series of 8 seminars on Humanism given in the philosophy department of Charles University Prague, is the basis of his next book, due out in autumn 2019, Seeing Ourselves. Reclaiming Humanity from God and Science . His next volume of verse – Sunburst – is also due out in 2019.

In 2009, the Economist Intelligent Life Magazine describe him as one of the world’s leading polymaths. He has been a member of the Council of Royal College of Physicians since June 2016. He has 4 honorary degrees: DLitt (Hull, 1997) and Litt.D. (Manchester, 2001) for contributions to the humanities; and DSc (St George’s Hospital Medical School, 2015; University of East Anglia, 2017) for contributions to research in medicine.