Therapeutic benefits of mediation to be explored in new study

  • Date

    Wed 23 Nov 22

Therapeutic benefits of mediation to be explored in new study

The use of mediation as a form of therapeutic justice for people involved in medical treatment disputes is set to be explored by researchers at the University of Essex.

High profile cases such as Archie Battersbee, Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans have highlighted the problem when families disagree with health professionals on the best way to treat a loved one.

Jaime Lindsey, a researcher at Essex Law School, will explore the use of mediation and see if it can be relied upon to help parties reach a solution they can feel settled with, rather than rely on the courts, which can be adversarial, and waiting on a judge’s ruling.

Mediation involves the use of an independent third-party to help lead negotiations between the opposing sides, helping them to reach an agreement that they can settle on.

The research will explore whether mediation can act as a form of therapy for the parties involved in healthcare disputes, and whether there are potential healing benefits to the process.

The project will study cases involving adults with impaired mental capacity and children under the age of 16.

Dr Lindsey said: “Mediation, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution, is generally more informal and flexible than court proceedings, but often takes place alongside or in parallel with court cases.

“By carrying out this research now we expect to identify ways that mediation can be used for therapeutic benefit of those involved while acknowledging the potential risks of mediation in this area.”

As part of the project, researchers will observe medical treatment mediations, ask participants to complete questionnaires and interview some participants, such as healthcare professionals, mediators, patients or family members.

Dr Lindsey added: “There is an argument developing in the literature and legal practice that mediation might be a suitable way of resolving medical treatment disputes and even provide therapeutic benefits compared to litigation.

“This research will consider the evidence for this argument through collection of original empirical data, of which there is very little in this area of practice.”

The project will officially launch during a virtual workshop on 29 November, with speakers including Baroness Ilora Finlay from the House of Lords, Sarah Barclay and Arabella Tresillian, as well as project consultant Margaret Doyle and senior research officer Katarzyna Wazynska-Finck.

The research is being funded by a prestigious New Investigator grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.