Healthcare ethics consultants are called upon in the most difficult of circumstances; where do they turn for advice? The American Society For Bioethics and Humanities' Clinical Ethics Consultation Affairs Committee (CECA) is taking a community approach, creating an online forum for feedback and shared experiences to accompany a paper published in the Fall 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Ethics.
The paper, titled "HCEC Pearls and Pitfalls: Suggested Do's and Don'ts for Healthcare Ethics Consultants," compiles lessons learned and advice for best practices from members of CECA, recognized national leaders in ethics consultation. The online discussion forum invites feedback on the paper from frontline ethics consultants across the country and provides the opportunity to share thinking and experiences.
"The stakes are often very high, as healthcare ethics consultants help families and clinicians think through their most challenging issues, like whether to pursue aggressive treatment at the end of life" says Joseph Carrese, MD, MPH, a member of CECA and lead author of the paper. "It's CECA's hope that this compilation of lessons learned, and the complimentary online discussion forum, will allow healthcare ethics consultants to learn from peer experiences and improve the overall quality of ethics consultations."
The online discussion forum is an effort to ensure improvement in ethics consultations is ongoing and doesn't end with the published paper, says Carrese, a core faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and Chair of the Ethics Committee at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
"There's no need to reinvent the wheel in the age of social media, especially with issues as difficult as those encountered by healthcare ethics consultants, " Carrese says. "The online discussion forum will be a great place to get feedback on this first collection of 'Pearls and Pitfalls,' and will hopefully provide material for future iterations as well."
The published paper includes 12 'pearls and pitfalls' developed from the collective experience of CECA members. The authors note these 12 points are not intended to be an encyclopedic account of everything to bear in mind when conducting ethics consultations, but they agree that these 12 are important and a good starting place.