Hospital ethics committees play a critical role
The primary responsibility of HECs is to facilitate proper understanding of the situation in question peace the pieces together and thus come up with the best way in a given situation.
Decision-making authority rests with the patient, family and caregivers. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Modern medical knowledge coupled with the diversity of lifestyles and broad moral and religious values in modern societies have made medical involvement and decision-making processes associated with healthcare more complicated. The economic pressure being experienced by healthcare systems requiring proper well thought out allocation of meager resources demands that decisions are made in a well-informed manner. Implications of any decision made in medicine have been raised through public political and medico-legal discussions about patient independence and autonomy to make self-determining decisions.Though this is being strongly professed and gaining great momentum, our social, cultural and religious norms cannot be ignored in decisions making.To house all these factors, a Hospital Ethics Committees are a crucial modern healthcare component. A Hospital Ethics Committee is a multidisciplinary team set in a hospital that helps patients, families and clinicians to address value disagreement or uncertainty that may arise during health care provision.The committees are comprised of clinicians, non-clinicians who deal with patients such as counsellors, non-clinicians from other professions and community representatives.It is recommended that such members have basic training in medical ethics.These committees are important in advising and guiding on the best way forward when there is no consensus among all those concerned in a patient’s care, the committee considers the various factors that play a role in the provision of care as well as all the stakeholders in the same.The HEC is not a decision-making body. Decision-making authority rests with the patient, family and caregivers.
The primary responsibility of HECs is thus to facilitate proper understanding of the situation in question peace the pieces together and thus come up with the best way in a given situation.Situations where there are disagreements on the way forward can be referred to as ethical dilemmas.An ethical dilemma occurs when a choice may need to be made that requires choosing between alternatives none of which is absolutely right or wrong. Mostly, conflicts arise based on differences in values, problems in communication, or due to the severe stress of critical illness.An ethics consultation can be helpful in these situations. Ethical dilemmas may be experienced by patients, family and healthcare providers in situations such as; admission to critical care areas like High Dependency Unit, Intensive Care Unit with the attending clinician,There are various roles that hospital ethics committees can do to solve conflicting interests including; mediate the discussion of differences of opinion among family members about treatment, support a patient or family member in making decisions about what type of care the patient should receive or the goals of that care, facilitate ethical decision-making by physicians and the healthcare team.