Ethics consultation on demand: concepts, practical experiences and a case study.
Despite the increasing interest in clinical ethics, ethics consultation as a professional service is still rare in Europe. In this paper I refer to examples in the United States. In Germany, university hospitals and medical faculties are still hesitant about establishing yet another "committee". One of the reasons for this hesitation lies in the ignorance that exists here about how to provide medical ethics services; another reason is that medical ethics itself is not yet institutionalised at many German universities. The most important obstacle, however, may be that medical ethics has not yet demonstrated its relevance to the needs of those caring for patients. The Centre for Ethics and Law, Freiburg, has therefore taken a different approach from that offered elsewhere: clinical ethics consultation is offered on demand, the consultation being available to clinician(s) in different forms. This paper describes our experiences with this approach; practical issues are illustrated by a case study. (+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)
The Freiburg approach to ethics consultation: process, outcome and competencies.
The paper describes how ethics consultation can be valuable to health professionals, patients and their families in understanding and evaluating ethical values and their consequences in a particular situation. Ethics consultation as it is practised at the university hospital of Freiburg is a special professional service offered by members of an academic institution. The practical approach and the goals are illustrated by a case study showing the difficulties of deciding about the limitation of intensive care medicine after heart surgery in the setting of maximum treatment. Here, the ethics consultation was initiated by the relatives of the patient who wanted a decision to withhold further life-sustaining treatment. Following the experiences in Freiburg, it is concluded that clinical ethicists have to cover a variety of relevant fields of knowledge, need special analytical skills, and should have professional competence in counselling, including conflict mediation or crisis intervention. (+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)
Snapshots of five clinical ethics committees in the UK.
Each of the following papers gives an account of a different UK clinical ethics committee. The committees vary in the length of time they have been established, and also in the main focus of their work. The accounts discuss the development of the committees and some of the ethical problems that have been brought to them. The issues raised will be relevant for other National Health Service (NHS) trusts in the UK that wish to set up such a committee. (+info)
Clinical ethics revisited.
A decade ago, we reviewed the field of clinical ethics; assessed its progress in research, education, and ethics committees and consultation; and made predictions about the future of the field. In this article, we revisit clinical ethics to examine our earlier observations, highlight key developments, and discuss remaining challenges for clinical ethics, including the need to develop a global perspective on clinical ethics problems. (+info)
A national survey of U.S. internists' experiences with ethical dilemmas and ethics consultation.
OBJECTIVE: To identify the ethical dilemmas that internists encounter, the strategies they use to address them, and the usefulness of ethics consultation. DESIGN: National telephone survey. SETTING: Doctors' offices. PARTICIPANTS: General internists, oncologists, and critical care/pulmonologists (N = 344, 64% response rate). MEASUREMENTS: Types of ethical dilemmas recently encountered and likelihood of requesting ethics consultation; satisfaction with resolution of ethical dilemmas with and without ethics consultation. RESULTS: Internists most commonly reported dilemmas regarding end-of-life decision making, patient autonomy, justice, and conflict resolution. General internists, oncologists, and critical care specialists reported participating in an average of 1.4, 1.3, and 4.1 consultations in the preceding 2 years, respectively (P <.0001). Physicians with the least ethics training had the least access to and participated in the fewest ethics consultations; 19% reported consultation was unavailable at their predominant practice site. Dilemmas about end-of-life decisions and patient autonomy were often referred for consultation, while dilemmas about justice, such as lack of insurance or limited resources, were rarely referred. While most physicians thought consultations yielded information that would be useful in dealing with future ethical dilemmas (72%), some hesitated to seek ethics consultation because they believed it was too time consuming (29%), might make the situation worse (15%), or that consultants were unqualified (11%). CONCLUSIONS: While most internists recall recent ethical dilemmas in their practices, those with the least preparation and experience have the least access to ethics consultation. Health care organizations should emphasize ethics educational activities to prepare physicians for handling ethical dilemmas on their own and should improve the accessibility and responsiveness of ethics consultation when needed. (+info)