J Clin Ethics [journal]
- \Defining Patient Advocacy for the Context of Clinical Ethics Consultation: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Consultants. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):176-84.
The idea of patient advocacy as a function of clinical ethics consultation (CEC) has been debated in the bioethics literature. In particular, opinion is divided as to whether patient advocacy inherently is in conflict with the other duties of the ethics consultant, especially that of impartial mediator. The debate is complicated, however, because patient advocacy is not uniformly conceptualized. This article examines two literatures that are crucial to understanding patient advocacy in the context of bioethical deliberations: the CEC literature and the literature on advocacy in the social work profession. A review of this literature identifies four distinct approaches to patient advocacy that are relevant to CEC: (1) the best interest approach, (2) the patient rights approach, (3) the representational approach, and (4) the empowerment approach. After providing a clearer understanding of the varied meanings of patient advocacy in the context of CEC, we assert that patient advocacy is not inherently inconsistent with the function of the ethics consultant and the CEC process. Finally, we provide a framework to help consultants determine if they should adopt an advocacy role.
- Measuring Quality in Ethics Consultation. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):163-75.
For all of the emphasis on quality improvement-as well as the acknowledged overlap between assessment of the quality of healthcare services and clinical ethics-the quality of clinical ethics consultation has received scant attention, especially in terms of empirical measurement. Recognizing this need, the second edition of Core Competencies for Health Care Ethics Consultation1 identified four domains of ethics quality: (1) ethicality, (2) stakeholders' satisfaction, (3) resolution of the presenting conflict/dilemma, and (4) education that translates into knowledge. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to directly measure all of these domains. Here we describe the quality improvement process undertaken at a tertiary care academic medical center, as well as the tools developed to measure the quality of ethics consultation, which include post-consultation satisfaction surveys and weekly case conferences. The information gained through these tools helps to improve not only the process of ethics consultation, but also the measurement and assurance of quality.
- Gender and Race in the Timing of Requests for Ethics Consultations: A Single-Center Study. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):154-62.
Clinical ethics consultants are expected to "reduce disparities, discrimination, and inequities when providing consultations," but few studies about inequities in ethics consultation exist.1 The objectives of this study were (1) to determine if there were racial or gender differences in the timing of requests for ethics consultations related to limiting treatment, and (2) if such differences were found, to identify factors associated with that difference and the role, if any, of ethics consultants in mitigating them.The study was a mixed methods retrospective study of consultation summaries and hospital and ethics center data on 56 age-and gender-matched Caucasian and African American Medicare patients who received ethics consultations related to issues around limiting medical treatment in the period 2011 to 2014. The average age of patients was 70.9.Consultation requests for females were made significantly earlier in their stays in the hospital (6.57 days) than were consultation requests made for males (16.07 days). For African American patients, the differences in admission-to-request intervals for female patients (5.93 days) and male patients (18.64 days) were greater than for Caucasian male and female patients. Differences in the timing of a consultation were not significantly correlated with the presence of an advance directive, the specialty of the attending physician, or the reasons for the consult request. Ethics consultants may have mitigated problems that developed during the lag in request times for African American males by spending more time, on average, on those consultations (316 minutes), especially more time, on average, than on consultations with Caucasian females (195 minutes). Most consultations (40 of 56) did result in movement toward limiting treatment, but no statistically significant differences were found among the groups studied in the movement toward limiting treatment. The average number of days from consult to discharge or death were strongly correlated with the intervals between admission to the hospital and request for an ethics consultation.Our findings suggest race and gender disparities in the timing of ethics consultations that consultants may have partially mitigated.
- Medical Boards and Fitness to Practice: The Case of Teleka Patrick, MD. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):146-53.
Medical boards and fitness-to-practice committees aim to ensure that medical students and physicians have "good moral character" and are not impaired in their practice of medicine.Presented here is an ethical analysis of stalking behavior by physicians and medical students, with focus on the case of Teleka Patrick, MD (a psychiatry resident practicing medicine while under a restraining order due to her alleged stalking behavior).While a restraining order is not generally considered a criminal conviction, stalking behavior is clearly unprofessional and a marker of inappropriate character and fitness, yet the reporting obligations for such matters are complex. Medical schools and training programs that fail to assess, record, and report matters of moral conduct such as this potentially allow impaired students to graduate and enter the work force (unless a robust licensing process identifies them). Patrick's case should be a wake-up call for medical schools and medical boards to better integrate the professionalism domain into their operations. Further, the professionalism of students and doctors need to be integrated into the legal domain, so that those who are unfit to practice are, in fact, prevented from doing so. Guidance for integration is provided.
- The Medical Ethics Curriculum in Medical Schools: Present and Future. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):129-45.
In this review article we describe the current scope, methods, and contents of medical ethics education in medical schools in Western English speaking countries (mainly the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia). We assess the strengths and weaknesses of current medical ethics curricula, and students' levels of satisfaction with different teaching approaches and their reported difficulties in learning medical ethics concepts and applying them in clinical practice. We identify three main challenges for medical ethics education: counteracting the bad effects of the "hidden curriculum," teaching students how to apply ethical knowledge and critical thinking to real cases in clinical practice, and shaping future doctors' right character through ethics education. We suggest ways in which these challenges could be addressed. On the basis of this analysis, we propose practical guidelines for designing, implementing, teaching, and assessing a medical ethics program within a four-year medical course.
- What Is Everyday Ethics? A Review and a Proposal for an Integrative Concept. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):117-28.
"Everyday ethics" is a term that has been used in the clinical and ethics literature for decades to designate normatively important and pervasive issues in healthcare. In spite of its importance, the term has not been reviewed and analyzed carefully. We undertook a literature review to understand how the term has been employed and defined, finding that it is often contrasted to "dramatic ethics." We identified the core attributes most commonly associated with everyday ethics. We then propose an integrative model of everyday ethics that builds on the contribution of different ethical theories. This model proposes that the function of everyday ethics is to serve as an integrative concept that (1) helps to detect current blind spots in bioethics (that is, shifts the focus from dramatic ethics) and (2) mobilizes moral agents to address these shortcomings of ethical insight. This novel integrative model has theoretical, methodological, practical, and pedagogical implications, which we explore. Because of the pivotal role that moral experience plays in this integrative model, the model could help to bridge empirical ethics research with more conceptual and normative work.
- \How Can Clinical Ethics Committees Take on Organizational Ethics? Some Practical Suggestions. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):111-6.
Although leaders in the field of ethics have for many years pointed to the crucial role that organizations play in shaping healthcare ethics, organizational ethics remains a relatively undeveloped area of ethics activity. Clinical ethics committees are an important source of potential expertise, but new skills will be required. Clinical ethics committees seeking to extend their purview to organizational issues will have to respond to three challenges-how to gain sanction and support for addressing controversial and sensitive issues, how to develop an acceptable process, and how to make a difference on the ground. The article presents practical suggestions for how clinical ethics committees meet these challenges.
- Untangling Uncertainty: A Study of the Discourses Shaping Clinical Ethics Consultation as a Professional Practice. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):99-110.
This qualitative social scientific interview study delves into the ways in which professional vision is constructed in clinical ethics consultation (CEC). The data consist of 11 semi-structured interviews that were conducted with clinical ethics consultants currently working in hospitals in one major urban area in the U.S. The interviews were analyzed with the qualitative research method of critical discourse analysis, with a focus on identifying the cultural structures of knowledge that shape CEC as a professional practice. The discourses were first identified as belonging to two higher discourse categories, order and agency. Order was divided into three lower categories, emotional, managerial, and rational order, and discourses of agency into the lower categories of exploration, technique, deliberation, and distancing. An additional discourse of neutral interaction was identified as a bridging discourse, activated to level tensions emerging out of conflicting goals and agencies embedded in CEC practice. This analysis brings out as its main observation that clinical ethics consultants draw on and shift between potentially ideologically conflicting social positions that can create built-in tensions within the professional domain. The study calls attention to these tensions and suggests for the professional group to discuss the possibility of defining priorities between different kinds of order, identified in this study, that shape the CEC domain.
- What Do We Owe Medical Students and Medical Colleagues Who Are Impaired? [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(2):87-98.
Physicians who are impaired, engage in unprofessional behavior, or violate laws may be barred from further practice. Likewise, medical students may be dismissed from medical school for many infractions, large and small. The welfare of patients and the general public must be our first priority, but when we assess physicians and students who have erred, we should seek to respond as caringly and fairly as possible. This piece will explore how we may do this at all stages of the proceedings physicians and students may encounter. This may include helping them to resume their medical careers if and when this would be sufficiently safe and beneficial for patients.
- Legal Briefing: Mandated Reporters and Compulsory Reporting Duties. [Journal Article]
- J Clin Ethics 2016; 27(1):76-83.
This issue's "Legal Briefing" column, one product of a Greenwall Foundation grant, reviews recent developments concerning compulsory reporting duties. Most licensed clinicians in the United States are "mandated reporters." When these clinicians discover certain threats to the safety of patients or the public, they are legally required to report that information to specified government officials. Over the past year, several states have legislatively expanded the scope of these reporting duties. In other states, new court cases illustrate the vigorous enforcement of already existing duties. I have organized all these legal developments into the following eight categories: 1. Overview of Mandatory Reporting Duties 2. Controversy over the Benefits of Mandatory Reporting 3. New and Expanded Duties to Report 4. Criminal Penalties for Failing to Report 5. Civil Liability for Failing to Report 6. Disciplinary Penalties for Failing to Report 7. Legal Immunity for Good-Faith Reporting 8. Protection against Employers' Retaliation.