The Ethics Consultation Service (Ethics Service) is a multidisciplinary service that provides consultation and staff education in situations of ethical conflict and stress. The Ethics Service is staffed 24/7 by members of the hospital’s Ethics Committee and provides ethics consultations for all BWH clinicians as well as any BWH patient or family member of a patient.
You can contact the Ethics Service by calling the hospital page operator at 617-732-5656 (or 2-5656 from a hospital phone) and asking for the Ethics Service or for page ID # 18590. You will be asked to leave a callback number and a member of the Ethics Service will return your call as soon as possible.
Weighing the benefits and burdens of treatment or identifying which treatment is right for each patient can be challenging – particularly with the multitude of choices and technological advances facing clinicians and patients today. Conflicts can arise based on differences in values, difficulties in communication, or due to the severe stress of critical illness. In these situations an ethics consultation can be helpful.
Ethics consultants help to clarify and resolve ethical issues that can often be at the root of medical decision-making conflicts or confusion. This process can involve reviewing the patient’s medical record, meeting with the patient and family and facilitating discussions among caregivers and family. A summary of the consultation is recorded in the patient’s chart.
The consult team is not a decision-making body. While ethics consultants often make recommendations, decision-making authority rests with the clinicians, patient, and family.
Below are examples of situations in which an ethics consultation can be helpful:
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Ethics Committee is a multidisciplinary advisory group comprised of physicians, nurses, social workers, administrators, clergy and representatives of the community. The Committee meets semimonthly with the following goals:
Committee members who are not actively involved in the Ethics Consultation Service generally serve a three-year term. This rotation of staff from various departments provides a mechanism for integrating bioethics education throughout the hospital.
The Ethics Management Group, a subgroup of the larger Committee, meets on a monthly basis to develop Ethics Committee meeting agendas and create an integrated bioethics curriculum across Committee meetings.
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