Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research

Autumn term 2010/11

The Ethics of Oral History in a Health Care Setting: The Autobiography of a Hospital

Wednesday 7 December 1.30-4.00pm (Short film showing and refreshments from 1pm)

Chowen Lecture Theatre, Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Oral history – the recording of in-depth interviews for historical or reminiscence purposes – is a growing practice in healthcare contexts. How does it work, what can it offer, and how do we manage its ethical challenges? Focusing on both an oral history project and an oral history service, this mini-conference will explore these contemporary questions.

Part One

The Our Hospital, Our History project, led by Sam Carroll and Margaretta Jolly, Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research, recorded the experiences and feelings of fifty-two staff and volunteers at hospitals throughout the BSUH Trust. Commissioned by the Trust, the aim of this research was to collect and preserve hospital memories in order to illuminate the local medical community.

Following a short film to introduce the project, this event opens with Heather Leake Date, Consultant Pharmacist BSUH Trust (HIV/Sexual Health) in conversation with Sam Carroll concerning the ethical implications of oral history in a healthcare setting, with particular emphasis upon the interviewee's experience. Following this, three of the interviewer team present their own perspectives on ethical issues that arose during the research process:

Bridget Conneally: Similarities and Differences: The influence of embedded ethics on life story work with heath care professionals
The consideration of ethical issues is embedded in the work of both oral historians and health care workers. Bridget discusses shared ethical concerns and highlights how consideration of the patient and their relatives influences life story work with health care professionals.

Jo Palache: Understanding the individual perspective
In collecting oral histories of institutions, the focus may remain the same for each interviewee, however, they may be speaking from different points in their career. Jo discusses the ethical considerations in allowing for the interviewee’s professional standpoint, how this can enrich an interview and the importance of clear documentation for future research.

Sarah Hitchings: ‪Social History and Personal History
An exploration of the balance between fulfilling the aims of a research project whilst also taking into account the needs of the individual once they have embarked on remembering their past. Sarah explains how one interview brought this into particularly sharp focus.

Part Two: Life history at the end of life: oral history as a service in palliative care

We are delighted to present Dr Michelle Winslow who is a Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield where she leads an oral history service in a palliative care unit. She also works for the Oral History Society. This presentation will outline oral history work within the unit and consider ethical issues that arise in the course of recording life histories with people diagnosed with a life limiting disease. Most recent publication: Winslow M, Smith G (2010) Medical Ethics and Oral History. D Ritchie (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Oral History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This open mini-conference is jointly hosted by BSMS and the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research. There is no charge to attend and all are welcome.

To register for the event, please contact Dr Sam Carroll: S.J.Carroll@sussex.ac.uk