Sometimes making the right decision in the face of serious illness can be complicated. When there’s uncertainty or disagreement, theEthics Committee can help.
The Ethics Committee is a group of Alta Bates Summit 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.
The Ethics Committee meets free of charge to provide a safe, supportive, confidential forum in which you and others can think through a problem, consider different points of view and sort through options. Every attempt is made to involve key members of the healthcare team as well as the patient and family, as appropriate, in the process. After discussing the ethical issues at stake, the Ethics Committee offers advice in the form of a non-binding recommendation. It is then up to those involved to decide what to do next.
Before you contact the Ethics Committee, it’s recommended that you first speak with those involved in your healthcare situation, and that you use all available resources in the hospital to try to resolve the problem. Oftentimes, meeting with the patient, family members, physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, patient representative and other members of the hospital staff can help those involved come to agreement. If what should be done is still unclear, you may contact the Ethics Committee at your campus location.
What are Ethical Dilemmas?
Ethical dilemmas may arise for patients, family members, medical staff members and physicians alike.
Some of the issues surrounding problems for which ethics consultation may be requested include:
- Advance directives
- Surrogate decision making
- Refusal of treatment
- Conflicts with caregivers
- Foregoing life-sustaining treatment
- Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) orders
- Other issues perceived as ethical problems
Examples of ethical dilemmas may include the following:
- Your critically ill family member is in the hospital and the doctors and nurses are turning to you to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf. You don't know how to decide what to do and could use some guidance.
- You are a patient and are too sick to speak for yourself. You are concerned about who will make medical decisions on your behalf, and whether your wishes will be followed. You wonder, "What if they disagree about what I would want, or what would be best for me?"
- You are part of the healthcare team and your patient comes from a culture in which it is considered wrong to tell patients that they are dying. You're unclear how to respond to a family’s request to conceal the truth from a dying patient.
- You are a physician and some may think it is time to withdraw life support and let nature take its course, yet the dying patient’s family insists that you "do everything possible" to keep the patient alive. You're unclear how to solve this problem and worry that "doing everything" might cause the patient pain and discomfort without offering any benefit.
Contact the Ethics Committee
Summit Campus (Oakland)
To reach the Summit Ethics Committee call the Summit Medical Staff Office between the hours of 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, or the Nursing Supervisor during the evening and weekend hours. Or you may ask any member of your healthcare team for help contacting the Summit Ethics Committee.
- Summit Medical Staff Office: (510) 869-6565
- Nursing Supervisor: (510) 655-4000 x2055
- Administrative Coordinator: (510) 869-2055
- Social Work: (510) 869-6546
- Case Management: (510) 869-6577
- Chaplain Services: (510) 869-6784
- Patient Relations: (510) 869-6139
Alta Bates & Herrick Campuses (Berkeley)
Contact the Alta Bates Ethics Committee in Berkeley by calling the Ethics Consultation Pager between the hours of 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. During evenings and on weekends/holidays, contact the Nursing Supervisor. Or you may ask any member of your healthcare team to help you contact the Alta Bates Ethics Committee.
- Ethics Consultation Pager: (510) 802-0021
- Nursing Supervisor: (510) 204-3300
- Alta Bates Medical Staff Office: (510) 204-1521
- Social Work and Case Management: (510) 204-2064
- Chaplain Services: (510) 204-6730
- Patient Relations: (510) 204-4689
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- Think of someone whose moral judgment you respect. ...
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- Ask yourself: Are my actions legal?
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- Recognize the ethical dilemma.
- Identify points of view.
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- How will it make me feel about myself?
- financial conflict;
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- 1) Identify the problem.
- 2) Generate alternatives.
- 3) Decide on a course of action.
- 4) Implement.
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Code of Ethics for Healthcare Quality Professionals
A code of ethics clarifies roles and responsibilities within a profession and provides guidance to the professional for addressing common ethical questions.
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Ethics doesn't give right answers
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