Re: medical ethics

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From: Dallas
Posts: 262

Nice username! Thanks for writing.

I would say that a practical definition of medical ethics is the search for and practice of moral behaviors with respect to the medical care of an individual or a group of individuals.

Ethical behaviors are practiced on several levels. Health care practioners and professional caregivers are supposed to be educated in ethical caregiving and are should implement that education in their care of each patient. Institutions should likewise have some mechanism for consulting and evaluating medical ethics issues in their facilities. I suspect, though, that you may be asking more about how ethical issues, specifically, are addressed in a particular patient's care.

By far, the biggest player in ethical decisionmaking in the modern health care setting is (and should be) the Ethics Committee. Most hospitals have such a committee. The participants in such committees come from different walks of life, so as to provide different perspectives. You can access the committee by speaking to the hospital administration and requesting the consultation of the Ethics Committee.

The Ethics Committee generally does NOT make decisions, nor are they empowered to. They try to understand the ethical principles at play (autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, veracity, justice, etc), understand the impact of any possible decision on any stakeholder (including the facility), weigh the ethical and practical effects of any course of action (benefits vs burdens), and make recommendations for various courses of action that may create the most ethical result.

Some long term care facilities (LTCs) also have these committees, though they are rare, except in the larger ones. Some national LTC chains have committees but they meet over the phone, generally, if at all. Most long term care facilities, in my experience, have no such resource. In our work, we have always encouraged facilities to set up such a committee, though likely to little effect.

Here are some links where you can see some of the types of cases that ethics committees use for training and use during consultations:
- The last site from the University of Washington has a lot of very helpful information. We think they do a great job in educating the public and professionals on ethics in medicine.

I hope that this helps.

Posted on 2005/8/29 12:34

<strong><span style="font-size:medium;"><span style="color:#990000;">For every human problem, there is a neat, simple solution; and it is always wrong.<br /><br />--H.L. Mencken</span></span></strong> <img src="

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