Clinical Ethics Consultation

What Do We Do?

The Clinical Ethics Consultation Service is a 24-hour service available to patients, family members of patients, or any individual involved in patient care. Ethical dilemmas arise when the right thing to do is not clear or when disagreement exists about what is best for a patient. This service provides guidance on navigating ethical dilemmas arising during clinical care, including issues around end-of-life care, the application of advanced directives, and surrogate decision-making. These dilemmas may involve moral values, religious beliefs, or professional duties and guidelines. Clinical ethics offers ways to identify and weigh the values at stake so that the individuals responsible for decisions can make good choices.

What Should be Done When There is an Ethical Dilemma in Patient Care?

After consultation with key persons involved in the care of the patient, when it is determined that there may be an ethics problem that clear communication cannot resolve, the Ethics Committee Consultation Service should be called.  Any person involved with the care of a patient can ask for an ethics consultation (e.g., physician, nurse, other care provider, patient, family).

Examples of clinical ethics problems include:

  • Disagreement between the patient, loved ones, and/or care providers about “what is in the patient’s best interest"
  • Questions about starting or stopping life-sustaining treatments
  • Uncertainty regarding who should serve as a patient’s surrogate decision-maker
  • Challenges in applying advance directives in a particular circumstance
Doctor talking to a patient on a hospital bed

What Will Happen in an Ethics Consultation?

One or more members of the Ethics Consultation Service will respond to a request for ethics assistance.  These individuals are trained to engage to ethically, legally, emotionally, and spiritually sensitive situations with both compassion and fairness.  The consultant(s) may review the medical record, discuss concerns with the attending physician and other key care providers, convene a family conference, offer a recommendation, and/or write a note in the medical record.

Ethics Consultants will help those involved in the difficult situation:

  • Identify specific ethical issues in the care of the particular patient;
  • Carefully discuss and analyze the ethical issues with all parties;
  • Recommend an ethical resolution to the problem.

Click below to find contact information about Ethics Consultations in the IU Health Regions.

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