I’ve just finished watching ‘The Trial: A Murder in the Family’. The channel 4 show is described as ‘a pioneering series that reveals the inner workings of the legal system’
I’m fascinated by how this documentary-drama hybrid was made. There are many parallels between the series and the simulation work which takes place in health education and research (more about that here). The programme used a mix of actors, real legal professionals and a real jury. The audience see a fictional murder case unfold. As well as seeing what happens in the courtroom, we are also given access to behind the scenes moments such as jury deliberations, the defendant preparing with his legal team, and the prosecution discussing their tactics. For me, these moments were the most interesting, as I felt like I was being given access to something which is usually kept very private.
Through simulation, complex legal processes were brought to life in a safe, ethical and engaging way. Judging by the media reaction, it seems to have encouraged some public debate. For me, it also dispelled some myths about a world I previously knew little about.
That is exactly what we try to do with medical simulation. For example, when a doctor and a patient simulate a consultation in front of an audience, we see something which is normally highly confidential. Privacy is so important within the NHS, however, so is public scrutiny and dialogue. It’s vital that we find safe ways to have challenging conversations.
I’ve now read several articles about ‘The Trial’. These articles reveal some of the process behind the series, however I have a lot more questions! For example, how was the case developed and who was involved in that process? Many of the simulated scenarios I work with draw on people’s real experiences. I wonder if that was true for ‘The Trial’.
Also it’s obvious that the trial process has been condensed somewhat. I suspect that was motivated by a mix of practical constraints, and concerns about keeping a TV audience engaged. However, judging by the conversations between jurors, I also suspect that the jury saw more of the court case than we did. I would love to know how they made decisions about condensing and editing such a complicated process.
This very much links to some work I am doing at the moment. I am thinking about how to simulate a patient journey through a clinical trial. The aim of this is to facilitate discussions around trial design, recruitment processes and participant burden. One of the things I am grappling with is how to condense this process into something engaging and understandable, without minimising the complexity.
Over to you…
Do you think a similar programme could help to dispel some myths about the NHS and health research? What would that look like? What can we learn from this approach to public engagement? Please let me know your thoughts by commenting below or contacting me.
If you have enjoyed this post, please follow my blog!
More info about the series here: