Support for ethical dilemmas in individual cases: experiences from the Neu-Mariahilf Hospital in Goettingen.
Prompted by a recommendation of the two Christian hospital associations in Germany, the Neu-Mariahilf Hospital in Gottingen set up a health ethics committee in autumn 1998. It is the committee's task to give support to staff members, patients and their relatives in individual cases where ethical dilemmas arise. The following article describes the committee's work by means of three cases. (+info)
Clinical ethics support services in the UK: an investigation of the current provision of ethics support to health professionals in the UK.
OBJECTIVE: To identify and describe the current state of clinical ethics support services in the UK. DESIGN: A series of questionnaire surveys of key individuals in National Health Service (NHS) trusts, health authorities, health boards, local research ethics committees and health professional organisations. Interviews with chairmen/women of clinical ethics committees identified in the surveys. SETTING: The UK National Health Service. RESULTS: Responses to the questionnaires were received from all but one NHS trust and all but one health authority/board. A variety of models of clinical ethics support were identified including twenty formal clinical ethics committees (CECs). A further twenty NHS trusts expressed an intention to establish a CEC within the next twelve months. Most CECs in the UK have been in existence less than five years and are still defining their role. The chairmen identified education of committee members and contact with other ethics committees as important requirements for committee development. Problems were identified around lack of support for the committee and with raising the profile of the committee within the institution. There has been little evaluation of clinical ethics support services either in the UK or in other countries with longer established services. What evaluation has occurred has focused on process rather than outcome measures. CONCLUSIONS: Clinical ethics support services are developing in the UK. A number of issues have been identified that need to be addressed if such support services are to develop effectively. (+info)
What triggers requests for ethics consultations?
OBJECTIVES: While clinical practice is complicated by many ethical dilemmas, clinicians do not often request ethics consultations. We therefore investigated what triggers clinicians' requests for ethics consultation. DESIGN: Cross-sectional telephone survey. SETTING: Internal medicine practices throughout the United States. PARTICIPANTS: Randomly selected physicians practising in internal medicine, oncology and critical care. MAIN MEASUREMENTS: Socio-demographic characteristics, training in medicine and ethics, and practice characteristics; types of ethical problems that prompt requests for consultation, and factors triggering consultation requests. RESULTS: One hundred and ninety of 344 responding physicians (55%) reported requesting ethics consultations. Physicians most commonly reported requesting ethics consultations for ethical dilemmas related to end-of-life decision making, patient autonomy issues, and conflict. The most common triggers that led to consultation requests were: 1) wanting help resolving a conflict; 2) wanting assistance interacting with a difficult family, patient, or surrogate; 3) wanting help making a decision or planning care, and 4) emotional triggers. Physicians who were ethnically in the minority, practised in communities under 500,000 population, or who were trained in the US were more likely to request consultations prompted by conflict. CONCLUSIONS: Conflicts and other emotionally charged concerns triggers consultation requests more commonly than other cognitively based concerns. Ethicists need to be prepared to mediate conflicts and handle sometimes difficult emotional situations when consulting. The data suggest that ethics consultants might serve clinicians well by consulting on a more proactive basis to avoid conflicts and by educating clinicians to develop mediation skills. (+info)
Electronic communication in ethics committees: experience and challenges.
Experience with electronic communication in ethics committees at two hospitals is reviewed and discussed. A listserver of ethics committee members transmitted a synopsis of the ethics consultation shortly after the consultation was initiated. Committee comments were sometimes incorporated into the recommendations. This input proved to be most useful in unusual cases where additional, diverse inputs were informative. Efforts to ensure confidentiality are vital to this approach. They include not naming the patient in the e-mail, requiring a password for access to the listserver, and possibly encryption. How this electronic communication process alters group interactions in ethics committees is a fruitful area for future investigation. (+info)
What is the role of clinical ethics support in the era of e-medicine?
The internet is becoming increasingly important in health care practice. The number of health-related web sites is rising exponentially as people seek health-related information and services to supplement traditional sources, such as their local doctor, friends, or family. The development of e-medicine poses important ethical challenges, both for health professionals and for those who provide clinical ethics support for them. This paper describes some of these challenges and explores some of the ways in which those who provide clinical ethics support might respond creatively to them. By offering ways of responding to such challenges, both electronically and face-to-face, the providers of clinical ethics support can show themselves to be an indispensable part of good quality health care provision. (+info)
Developing standards for institutional ethics committees: lessons from The Netherlands.
This article presents standards for setting up and educating institutional ethics committees (IECs). These standards are based on experiences in the Netherlands, where IECs have been established in a large number of health care institutions. Though the IEC has become a generally accepted institution within Dutch health care, there are concerns over its effectiveness regarding the improving of the moral quality of clinical decision making. Health care practitioners and members of IECs too, experience a gap between the IEC and the reality of the clinical environment. At this moment, there is interest in developing programmes which educate practitioners in moral issues and how to deal with them, using the method of a structured debate on the ward. The IEC will not be made obsolete by this development, but can play a guiding role in the implementation of such programmes. Current concerns are the lack of patient representation in the Dutch IEC, and the loss of contact with the local community of health care practitioners because of the merger of hospitals into bodies similar to UK National Health Service (NHS) trusts. (+info)
Teaching old dogs new tricks--a personal perspective on a decade of efforts by a clinical ethics committee to promote awareness of medical ethics.
To incorporate medical ethics into clinical practice, it must first be understood and valued by health care professionals. The recognition of this principle led to an expanding and continuing educational effort by the ethics committee of the Vancouver General Hospital. This paper reviews this venture, including some pitfalls and failures, as well as successes. Although we began with consultants, it quickly became apparent that education in medical ethics must reach all health care professionals--and medical students as well. Our greatest successes came in the formative years of a medical career (i.e., in medical school and residency training programmes), but other efforts were not wasted, particularly among nurses and other health care professionals. Although this is a personal review of the experience in one institution, the lessons learnt in Vancouver are applicable to the further development of medical ethics in the UK. (+info)
Legal aspects of clinical ethics committees.
In an increasingly litigious society where ritual demands for accountability and "taking responsibility" are now commonplace, it is not surprising that members of clinical ethics committees (CECs) are becoming more aware of their potential legal liability. Yet the vulnerability of committee members to legal action is difficult to assess with any certainty. This is because the CECs which have been set up in the UK are--if the American experience is followed--likely to vary significantly in terms of their functions, procedures, composition, structures and authority. As a consequence it is difficult to generalize about the legal implications. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties this article will outline the broad legal principles governing the potential liability of committee members. It will also consider the relationship between CECs and the courts. It begins, however, with a brief analysis of the relationship between ethics and law in committee deliberations, and in particular of the role of law and legal expertise on CECs. (+info)