MBBS Curriculum 2020

Annual Lecture

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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Video Recording