Current research

The Essex Autonomy Project is currently involved in the following active research areas:

Human Rights in Care Homes Project

In a new research project, Professor Wayne Martin (director of the Essex Autonomy Project) and Professor Sabine Michalowski (from the School of Law) will investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on respect for human rights in care homes. The overarching aim of the project is to improve the protection of human rights in care homes, using the impact of Covid-19 as a case study.

The research team will gather and analyse information on the experiences of care sector professionals during the pandemic, asking about reported practices such as the use of restrictions on the movements of residents, the use of “Do Not Attempt Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation” orders, or decisions to restrict transfer of unwell patients to acute-care hospital facilities.

This information will be analysed and used to help both care professionals and policy makers protect human rights in care homes: a training programme aimed at frontline workers will be developed, and research findings will be widely disseminated in the form of podcasts, blog posts, webinars, research papers, and reports.

The research project is funded by AHRC under the UKRI COVID-19 Rapid Response funding scheme.

More information can be found here.

A first publication associated with the project is a book chapter by Wayne Martin, entitled ‘Discrimination, Triage and Denial-of-Treatment: Lessons from COVID-19 in the UK‘.

Mental Health and Justice – Insight Project

Vital questions around insight and decision-making in clinical situations are being researched by the EAP as part of a research collaboration backed by the Wellcome Trust.

Leading clinical experts, lawyers, philosophers, neuroscientists and social scientists are being brought together through the Mental Health and Justice project to address the central dilemma in mental health, ethics and law – the tension between protecting and respecting a person’s decision-making.  The five year project will focus on the two fundamental concepts – support in decision-making and decision-making ability – through the work of six integrated and collaborative projects.

The ability to make decisions for yourself, and to have them respected by others, is something that most adults take for granted. However, this ability may be limited by the presence of mental impairment and by society’s response to it. The challenge is to find the right balance between protection and respect in all the multitude of circumstances when the potential for conflict arises.

The research by the Essex Autonomy Project will consider the role of ‘insight’ in mental health care – a key concept when it comes to treatment decisions.   Wayne Martin, lead investigator on the project explains why the work is important:

“A person who shows awareness of the fact that they are unwell is described as having insight, whilst a person without that awareness is said to lack insight. A person with insight shares with clinicians a common ground on which discussion of diagnosis and treatment options can begin, but where insight is absent, that common ground is lacking leading to predictably lower treatment compliance and making coercive treatment more likely. From a clinician’s perspective, absence of insight can be a palpable reality, but from a legal perspective, the concept is fraught. Can someone competently assess treatment options for an illness whose existence they do not recognise?”

Wayne Martin, lead investigator

The Decision-Making and Insight project will be led by Wayne, with contributions from Sabine Michalowski (School of Law at Essex) and Matt Burch (EAP).