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Should the role of a hospital ethics committee be that of a patient's advocate?
Hospital ethics committees, generally have been a function of hospital organization in the United States for perhaps a bit less than a generation and yet after all these years there has not been any final decisions by any organized body regarding uniform composition, ethics education or common roles and practices of these committees. One issue which may be debated even among ethicists is what position hospital ethics committees should take with regard to their relationship to the hospital patient or the patient's families particularly in the midst of an ethical dilemma or conflict. For whom should the hospital ethics committee serve? Should it be the source for ethics and legal education and a resource for mediation for all the stakeholders involved in an issue (physicians, nurses, hospital administration, patient and patient's family as examples) or should the committee be in the end, after "all is said and done", simply an advocate for the patient? If this is the goal of the ethics committee then that would suggest that the ethics committee would be the decision making body for ethical conflicts in order to preserve that goal. But that would mean that the ethics committee would be making a judgment as to what decision would be in the best interest of the patient perhaps ignoring the ethical interest of the other stakeholders rather than mediate and facilitate a decision to be finally made by all the parties involved.
Since there is no firm answer to my question by those involved, it is right to ask the public what they think is the best role and why. So, should the role of a hospital ethics committee be that of a patient's advocate? ..Maurice.
p.s.- For more discussion about other issues regarding the function of hospital ethics committees, click here
to go to the thread "Ethicists and Ethics Committees: As Police, Judges or What?"