ESRC New Investigator Grant Award For ‘Mediation of Medical Treatment Disputes: A Therapeutic Justice Model’

Dr. Jaime Lindsey, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, has recently been awarded the prestigious ESRC New Investigator grant for her research project ‘Mediation of Medical Treatment Disputes: A Therapeutic Justice Model’. She has been awarded £299,791 over 30 months to use socio-legal methods to research the use of mediation in medical treatment disputes.

The core aim of the project is to understand whether and, if so, the extent to which, mediation can and should be viewed as a form of Therapeutic Justice in medical treatment disputes. The research will adopt a mixed-methods approach including observations of medical treatment mediations, interviews with mediation participants and a questionnaire.

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. ‘Medical treatment disputes’ in this context means disagreements that arise between patients, health professionals, family members and others regarding the provision of health and care to the patient herself.

Usually the patient will be an adult with impaired mental capacity or a child below the age of 16, such that they are legally incapable of making their own decision about medical treatment, hence the involvement of healthcare professionals, family members and the courts. The disputes most commonly arise between family members of the patient and healthcare professionals, but in some cases may involve the patient herself.

The research will consider whether there are any therapeutic, or healing, benefits of using non-court based methods of resolution, such as mediation, to resolve disputes that arise from healthcare contexts, as well as considering the ways in which mediation could become more therapeutic as an intervention. For example, through improved communication between parties, improved voice or participation in the process of dispute resolution and speed of resolution.

This project builds on existing research on mediation and Therapeutic Justice to consider mediation’s value in often challenging healthcare environments, while also considering that mediation comes with a number of risks which may make it is less than ideally therapeutic. For example, mediation can reflect or reinforce existing power imbalances between parties, it can limit the participation of the subject of proceedings and it may be seen as a cost-saving, rather than therapeutic, exercise.

As the use of mediation has not yet been tested through empirical research in the medical treatment disputes context, nor has a model of Therapeutic Justice been developed or applied to this field, this project seeks to test those claims empirically through qualitative analysis of mediation in medical treatment disputes.

This research will commence in April 2022, with a launch event later that year, followed by dissemination of the research findings in the later years of the project. If you would like further information about the project or to be kept updated regarding the findings then please get in touch with the PI, Dr. Jaime Lindsey, at this email address: j.t.lindsey@essex.ac.uk

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