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Informing Choice (Book Review)

spring 2005

From triple helix - spring 2005 - Informing Choice (Book Review) [p21]

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Informing Choice - New approaches and ethics for sex and relationships education in Scotland - Philip Boydell and Calum MacKellar - Scottish Council on Human Bioethics 2004 - £15.00 88 pp - ISBN 0 95468 300 5 - for full contents

This is a highly useful resource for anyone interested in sex education, whether or not they are working in Scotland. Within its mere 88 pages of densely packed text, it covers a wide range of topics.

Consisting of two parts, the first summarises the sexual health scene in Scotland and then looks at the biological, psychological and social factors influencing the initiation of teenage sexual activity. The social factors examined include family systems, peer pressure, the media and socio-economics. There then follows a fascinating comparison and contrast of sex education in the Netherlands, USA and Uganda, applying lessons from successes in these countries to future policy in Scotland.

The second half of the book considers the often neglected area of the ethics of sex education, firstly using the well-known ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and best interests and then looking at the effect of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 19 recommendations to the Scottish Executive (the Scottish parliament) conclude the book. I have no doubt that if even half of these were adopted, sexual health in Scotland would be transformed for the better. The recommendations include giving information on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STIs; giving information on sex within the context of love and relationships; promotion of programmes that encourage young people to have educational goals; promotion of communication between parents and children regarding sex and relationships; promotion of delay and abstinence until a young person is older and more able to make informed decisions.

There are a few little irritations which betray the 'in-house' nature of this publication. Testosterone is given a capital 'T' in mid-sentence and there are some printing failures in the bar charts. The high price probably reflects the production costs (the shiny paper feels expensive) and limited expected circulation. It is a great pity that this well-researched and helpful book which must have taken months of work to put together, has had so little marketing. Though published in February 2004, I had not heard of it until my review copy arrived in December 2004! It is a real goldmine of useful information however with nine pages of references and is well worth ordering even in 2005. I hope the Scottish Executive have all had copies.

Article written by Trevor Stammers

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