Accessing an Ethics Consultation
What is an ethics consultation?
An ethics consultation is a service available in most Canadian hospitals and health service organizations. Its purpose is to provide support to patients, continuing care residents/clients, families, health professionals and health administrators who are facing difficult ethical questions regarding the care of a patient or client.
Who can request a consult?
Typically, an ethics consultation service is able to respond quickly to a request for support. Depending on the urgency and the acuity of the situation, the process from start to finish for an ethics consultation could be in hours (for some patient treatment questions) or days/weeks (for more complex, less urgent issues).The subject of ethics consultations are also not necessarily limited to current issues and decisions. Much can be learned by reviewing past situations. Similarly, it is a good idea to explicitly think and talk about the ethical aspects of future opportunities and challenges.
Who “does” ethics consultations?A growing number of health care organizations in Canada have clinical ethicists/bioethicists on staff who facilitate ethics consultations. In other cases, an organization may rely on members of its clinical ethics committee, usually composed of care providers with additional training in ethics. Other health care organizations utilize personnel from affiliated academic institutions (e.g., in the philosophy or religious studies department) to provide the service.
How do you access an ethics consultation?
many cases, ethics consultations can be accessed by contacting the
ethicist on staff or the chair of the organization's clinical ethics
committee. Often, this person can be accessed through the hospital or
healthcare organization's switchboard.