Ethical Jury

Sunday April 13th 2014

Farnham Humanists third ethical jury was facilitated by Ailsa Davies, a BHA celebrant.ailsa_davies-199x300

Each member of the jury (i.e. everyone present) was offered the chance to propose a moral dilemma and then, following limited explorations, the group voted on the issue they most wanted to deliberate. The dilemmas ranged from general issues to specific personal ones the proposer had  faced or was currently facing.  Ailsa emphasised that care should be taken to make sure that no issues of confidentiality can arise e.g. names were not used.

The dilemma chosen was explained in more detail by the proposer and Ailsa offered each jury member the chance to ask questions and to give their advice. At the end she summarised the group’s collective verdict.

Previous ethical juries had included

  • whether a problem lodger should be asked to leave
  • what one should do, when asked by medical staff for one’s opinion about someone else’s wishes regarding medication, when that person may be terminally ill but is not able to decide for themselves.

Prior to the evening Ailsa had recommended as excellent preparation  the new “That’s Humanism” video on “What Makes something Right or Wrong” . It’s only 3 minutes long. Click the link

For Mike Swaddling’s report of the evening – see below:

A group of about twenty gathered in the back room of the Hop Blossom on a Sunday evening for the latest Ethical Jury. Celebrant Ailsa Davies was there to explain the rules at the beginning and deliver the verdicts at the end of each debate, and in between her role was basically to hold everyone’s jacket while we all waded in. It was clear from the start that no one had come just to listen!

For those who have never been to an Ethical Jury evening before, the idea is for people to bring some moral dilemmas to be debated and two are selected. These are then discussed for a fixed time before a vote is taken. In all five were put forward, and the two that were chosen were the choices that faced a Muslim woman whose fiancé was non-Muslim and was reluctant to convert, and the decision to give McDonalds the catering franchise for a new children’s home at Southampton Hospital, given their contribution to the poor diets of today’s young people.

The Southampton Hospital situation was proposed by John and Ruth du Prey. The arguments spread to wider issues such as the funding of the NHS, and obesity in general. Ronald McD did have

his supporters, including our Chairman who said that she had (once) had a very nice salad from them, but the final vote went clearly against the fast food chain.

The second dilemma, proposed by Alec and Pamela Leggatt, attracted opinions that were no less ardent, but it was difficult in the end to find a single point to vote on. A number of those present brought up similar personal experiences of religious differences, including some surprising revelations from two of your committee (who shall, of course, remain nameless). The general advice was that the Muslim woman should talk to her fiance’s parents, which she had not yet done.

If you were there and had your taste whetted for more, or you missed it and wish you hadn’t, a substitute may be found in a board game called. This is based on similar moral dilemmas and involves ethical discussion, bluff and challenge. It’s highly addictive and beware – it’s probably best played with people you know quite well but whose friendship you are prepared to lose ….



Leave a Reply