15.12.2017

Ethics Committee for Primary Care in Mallorca

Ethics Committee for Primary Care in Mallorca

Jonathan McFarland was elected as the Lay Member of COMETA, the Ethics Committee for Primary Care in Mallorca in September, 2017. On all Ethics Committees, it is important that there is at least one member who is not a medical professional, but has a knowledge of the medical profession and health issues. COMETA is composed of GPs (General Practitioners or Family Doctors), Nurses, and one lawyer, one lay member, and one clerk.

Jonathan attended his first meeting as a full voting member, and it was a very interesting one on November 28, 2017.

The President of the Committee, Dr Carmen Salas Unamuno, who is the great granddaughter of the famous Spanish philosopher Miguel Unamuno, and an expert on Bioethics, spoke about Advanced Directives. Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They give you a way to tell your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later on. A living will tells which treatments you want if you are dying or permanently unconscious. You can accept or refuse medical care.

This was not something that I knew a lot about but her master class was fascinating, and I learnt a great deal. It is interesting to note that most patients who sign their Advanced Directives are not Spanish, but from Northern European countries, and this tells us a lot about the different approach to life between Southern European countries and their Northern counterparts. Jonathan explained about Irish Wakes, a party to celebrate the life of the deceased, which is common practice in Ireland, and he also quoted a famous Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, who said “they give birth astride a grave”.

We also discussed whether doctors should be allowed to use alternative medication if a patient asked for it. This topic arose from a case where a father of a child complained that the doctors had allowed his daughter to take a medicament that was not on the official roster. Another fascinating topic, that encompasses everything that is nor modern 21st century medicine: herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki and so on. It is not an easy topic but the general conclusion was that the doctor was free to recommend a medication if it did not cause harm, either directly or indirectly, meaning that by giving one medication you did not give another more effective one.

COMETA has already begun to give lectures to the different Health Care Centres in Mallorca, and Jonathan is looking forward to contributing to this and to the other didactic and ethical issues that will arise in the future. 

Head of Academic Writing Office,

Jonathan McFarland