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Culture, ‘coma’ and the media online course proves a big success with healthcare professionals and trainee journalists, running with 70 learners

13 Awst 2020

Culture, 'coma' and the media

Professor Jenny Kitzinger from the School of Journalism, Media and Culture ran this free online course aimed at healthcare professionals, journalists and anyone interested in the representation of the vegetative state in the media.

We are delighted that this course gained so much interest, particularly as it was developed at a challenging time, with professionals working hard to meet the challenges of establishing new ways of working in light of Covid-19. 70 people started the course, from many countries, including Brazil, the USA, Peru and Portugal.

The course explored how (un)consciousness, coma and the vegetative state are used in the media, and looked at ethical debates about portrayal of patients and reporting of ‘miracle’ recoveries, court cases and scientific breakthroughs.

Topics included how patients are typically portrayed in the media, diagnosis and prognosis - including the impact of ‘awakenings’ in film, and how recovery is reported in the news. The course also explored how law and science are framed, particularly landmark ‘right-to-die’ cases and new brain scanning techniques.

Attendees came from a range of backgrounds, with approximately 40% from Higher Education (both students and academics) and 40% from the healthcare profession, and also included some people with personal experience of having a loved one in a vegetative state. This led to some thoughtful engagement and discussion. It was a great opportunity for students to engage with and draw on the experiences of healthcare workers and a ‘level’ playing field for discussion between healthcare users and healthcare providers. The diversity of professional backgrounds (e.g. law, nursing, ethics) led to interesting perspectives in the group chats.

Feedback from attendees included

This course was really interesting in order to learn about a condition I had not come across much before, but it also balanced science, media, philosophical discussion and law incredibly elegantly, making it accessible and enjoyable for all. Would highly recommend to anyone looking to gain any information on the subject or to someone who wishes to see how best to think critically about a topic.

Delegate: Culture, 'coma' and the media course, 2020

I really enjoyed reading and participating in the discussion section as it was a great opportunity to share ideas from a range of disciplines. I also really valued the engagement of family members who I could engage in open discussion with but as I am not actually treating their relative it could be more objective.

Delegate: Culture, 'coma' and the media course, 2020

I would absolutely recommend this course to someone else studying journalism because it completely allowed for a new perspective. This area isn’t widely researched and I never would have thought to think about it until this course.

Delegate: Culture, 'coma' and the media course, 2020

Course leader, Professor Jenny Kitzinger, School of Journalism, Media and Culture, commented:

I was delighted by the level of interest in the course and it was great that it attracted both people interested in the media and front-line healthcare professionals caring for patients. I was also surprised, but really pleased, that learners included people from mainland Europe and countries such as the USA, Brazil and Peru. For me, the really exciting thing about running the course was to see it 'come alive' as people started to discuss the material, and debate with one another, in the comments section or as people started to reflect on their own assumptions and the way their imaginings of 'coma' had been influenced by the media. The experienced healthcare professionals also came up with some great ideas of how to discuss diagnosis and prognosis with families in light of what they could see might influence the preconceptions of patients’ families when they were working with them.

Yr Athro Jenny Kitzinger Cyfarwyddwr Ymchwil: Effaith ac Ymgysylltu, Cyd-gyfarwyddwr y Ganolfan Ymchwil Caerdydd-Efrog ynghylch Anhwylderau Ymwybyddiaeth Cronig

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