Book Review – Tough Choices: Stories from the Front Line of Medical Ethics (Book Guild, 2018) by Daniel Sokol

Daniel Sokol takes us on a fascinating journey through the world of medical ethics, drawing on his extensive experience as a medical ethicist and barrister in London.

The book consists of short chapters on contemporary ethical complexities, recent media headlines (such as the Alfie Evans case), issues core to medical practice such as the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and less common but ethically rich topics (such as the chapter on battlefield medical ethics).

Daniel uses a rich mix of empirical data, extracts from scholarly sources and ethical analysis to support his arguments.  He does not shy away from offering his considered views on topics, which makes this perfect for starting debates among medical students and clinicians.  His writing is reflective, scholarly without showing off, and engaging.

Readers of his popular BMJ column may recognise some of the chapters, as several are adapted from the column, but this does not make the book any less exciting.

Daniel succeeds in bringing to life the world of medical ethics and the essays have teachable lessons.  Even though the chapters are typically 800-1000 words long, they are rich in content and prompt reflection. In the Preface, Daniel describes his aim as ‘to present medical ethics and law in an accessible, engaging and relevant way to doctors and non doctors alike’.  He has achieved that and more with this book.  As someone who has worked in medical ethics for almost 10 years, I was challenged and inspired by the essays in the book.

This book is ideal for medical students, especially those who are skeptical about the subject (they will be converted with this book, and not just because it is endorsed by Henry Marsh), as well as doctors, academics and indeed anyone interested in medicine and its ethical aspects.

Highly recommended, for Christmas and beyond!


Pirashanthie Vivekananda-Schmidt, Lead for Ethics and Law, Sheffield Medical School


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