What is a medical center ethics committee? An ethics committee if a medical facility consist of a group of medical center staff (physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and others) and members of the community who are available to help patients, families, doctors, and other healthcare providers when they face difficult ethical decisions (Sutter Health, 2014). This type of committee is used when there is a disagreement in a decision or when there is uncertainty involved in coming up with a decision.
The ethics committee of Memorial Hospital was established to not only serve their patients but to do so with their best interest at heart. This committee educates not only the medical staff, but the patient and their families on the range of medical ethics in today’s society and help work through any medical dilemma the medical staff, patient, or family may encounter.
We all know that in life we have to deal with conflict on a daily basis, but we also know that when a patient is sick there are emotions running high. A patient that is ill is more likely to refuse a certain type of treatment, or ask a doctor for a treatment that they (doctor) don’t agree would work for the patient or in their best interest. This disagreement between the patient/doctor, patient’s family/doctor; doctor/doctor is what causes the conflict of interest.
Some of the ethical decisions that are made by this hospital on an everyday basis are: discharge decisions, financial decisions (impact the organization and the quality of care delivered). The nurses of the healthcare facility face ethical dilemmas everyday like the patient refusing to follow their advice because they want to do something else. While nurses do not sign the Hippocratic Oath, they are still bound by the promise to devote themselves to the welfare of the patients committed to the care, as well as to live up to the standards of the profession (Loyola University, 2018).
Another ethics dilemma they are faced with is pro-life and pro-choice. Some nurses don’t believe in abortion but due to what they took an oath to devote themselves to the patient’s welfare, they are confronted with these ethical dilemmas every day. Deciding to withhold information from a patient on the family’s request is something that is seen every day. Nurses have to fight with whether to be honest and tell the patient everything, or to prevent them from hurting more emotionally by worrying about the diagnosis and the outcome.
With all these ethical conflicts Memorial Hospital provides steps that the patient and doctor can take to get them resolved as follows: First, talk to the doctor and ask why the treatment/intervention will not work, and are there other options? Next, you want to inform your nurse that you would like to speak a social worker, someone form administration, or the coordinator of nursing care, you can request a second opinion from another doctor, next, if you and your doctor still disagree, you can ask your nurse to request a consult with the Ethics Committee here at the hospital(the Committee will not make the decision for you or your doctor) and neither you nor your doctor has to follow what the Committee suggests, and lastly you may request a transfer to another doctor at Memorial Hospital or to another facility willing to follow your wishes.
End of life decision making and care are very important in the delivery of patient healthcare. The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) expects healthcare executives to be committed to the compassionate and competent care of dying patients, including addressing the ethical dilemmas surrounding death and dying (American College of Healthcare Executives, 2014). Once the ethics committee is consulted either by the physician or a social worker, the head of the committee and either one or two members of the committee will review the case. After reviewing all the medical records and speaking with the medical team the committee then meets with the patient and/ or the family of a patient. The ethics committee must then consider a few things as follows: the patient’s medical condition and the prognosis given, if the patient can participate in making decisions and the consequences that follow, if the patient is incapable of making decisions the committee must decide who is assigned to make the decision and what roles they play in the process, the good and the bad of the treatment offered to the patient, how much it will cost to keep this person on life support and if it would affect the expenses of other patients seeking care, life expectancy and expected outcome with or without treatment, and what kind of pain and suffering the patient would have with or without treatment (Neuman, 2017).
Once all of these things are taken in to consideration the committee then tries to find out if the patient has any last wishes and religious beliefs that must be followed. The ethics committee must also look at any legal risk that can occur with whatever course of action is taken.
After all of this information is gathered it is taken back to be reviewed by the committee at which time they will provide a recommendation for the patient’s treatment. Remember, this is a recommendation the patient or family, and physician do not have to implement the recommendation.
For example, I had a family member that was in a horrible motorcycle accident and after weeks in a coma, and several CAT scans, the family was told that his brain was severely damaged and they had to decide if they wanted to keep him on life support. His mother was the person in charge of making the decisions and she was given the task to decide. After two weeks of deliberation with herself, her religious beliefs and the doctor’s she decided that no matter what she wanted her son to live. After speaking with several specialists she was given the option of doing something else that could possibly bring her son back. While they knew he would never be the same, she wanted her son to live. The decision the mother and the physicians made that day were against the recommendations of the committee and her son, although having to relearn how to walk, talk, and communicate is alive and working hard to get as close as a normal life as possible.
In conclusion, the ethics committee has some big shoes to fill when reviewing end of life decisions, and any other ethics decision. While preserving a life is always the main goal of the hospital and ethics committee, dealing with death is another part of their job. Therefore when they are asked for a consultation of a patients treatment all avenues must be taken to make sure they are following the patient’s wishes, religion, and what is better for the patient as well as the overall hospital.