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Clinical Ethics FAQs

Common Questions About Clinical Ethics

Please find below answers to frequently asked questions regarding clinical ethics.

What Is a Clinical Ethics Consultation?

Making patient care decisions in today’s complex medical environment is sometimes not easy. Ethical questions can arise, for instance, when a patient has lost the capacity to make decisions, when there is uncertainty about who should decide, when it is unclear whether the burdens of a treatment are worth the expected benefits, or when values appear to conflict. The ESC Consultative Service is a supportive advisory service designed to assist patients, families, and all health care professionals in identifying, analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas.

Who Can Request a Clinical Ethics Consultation?

Patients, families, doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, or anyone involved in a particular case may request a consultation from the ESC.

What Happens in a Clinical Ethics Consultation?

A member of the ESC will review each request to see if a full consultation is warranted. A full consult will generally involve a review of the case by two members of the ESC, one physician and one non-physician. Frequently, a meeting with members of the health care team, the patient, and/or family is helpful to help provide appropriate ethical recommendations. A formal consult note is placed in the patient’s chart by the physician ethics consultant.

Are There “Informal Consults?”

Sometimes the concern may only be a communication problem. An ESC consultant will determine if the situation can be resolved without a full consultation. Additionally, there may be times when the primary medical team has a simple ethical question or is unsure of whether an ethics consultation is needed for a particular case. Any BID Plymouth employee may contact the ESC for an informal consult. Together, the employee and ESC consultants can decide if a more formal consult is necessary.

Does the ESC Offer Any Other Type of Consultative Service?

There may be instances when a physician or hospital employee has an ethical question that is not necessarily specific to an individual case but relates to an institutional policy or practice. The ESC will review such questions and offer assistance on a case-by-case basis.

How Do I Request an Ethics Consultation?

To request a consultation, please call the ESC by calling 508-210-5912 or emailing the committee.