|Dr Dean Cocking: health care and human rights promote one another.|
The philosopher, whose background includes working with the Australian Defence Force Academy, Australian National University and the Victorian Police Academy, takes a grounded approach to his teaching.
“I think it is really important when you are teaching professionals about their ethical responsibilities that what you say is relevant to their everyday practice rather than asking them to focus on the most unusual or extreme cases,” Dr Cocking said. “What I emphasise is that health care and human rights promote one another and that if you respect people – patients, clients, the public – that should be the rule of thumb; but then it’s important to explore what is this notion of respect and what does respect mean to them as health professionals?
“Because of the demanding workloads medical professionals face, they can become jaded and miss certain things so I tell some everyday true stories from a range of areas of professional practise about how remaining open minded, paying attention and not assuming too much are not only markers of respect but they lead to good investigation as well, hence, in the case of medicine, better patient outcomes,” Dr Cocking said.
“I am presenting values as a means of getting better, technically, at their jobs - and this seems to resonate. As a medico these students will not be the patients’ friend or family member but they will not be a complete stranger either; they will have an institutional role and body of knowledge and it is important how they use this – I try to show them that what they are doing in everyday practise is a moral enterprise.”
Monash Rural Health Bendigo lecturer Pam Harvey said student feedback following Dr Cocking’s seminars was positive. “He challenges students to think about ethics on a deeper level and provokes reflection in a way that I think will stay with them as they embark on their careers,” she said. “We always talk about the uncertainty of medicine and how you never find a textbook case of anything so you need to learn to cope with the uncertainty and stay open minded,” Ms Harvey added.
Dr Cocking is the author of two books, Virtue Ethic and Professional Roles, (with Justin Oakley), Cambridge University Press, and Evil Online, (with Jeroen van den Hoven), Wiley-Blackwells, which is forthcoming at the end of this year.