A national survey of ethics committees in state mental hospitals

HEC Forum 5 (5):272-288 (1993)
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In June 1992, a national mail survey was directed to 204 state inpatient psychiatric institutions. This study was implemented following the 1992 Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requirement that hospitals put in place some means with which to address ethical issues. The goals of the study were: 1. to examine state mental hospital characteristics and their response to the JCAHO requirements; 2. to describe healthcare ethics committee (HEC) composition, function, and role; 3. to study patient and family access to a HEC; and 4. to discover ethical issues most frequently addressed. The survey response rate was 71%. Of the 145 responders, 62 had HECs in place, and 53 were in the process of implementing HECs. There were no differences between JCAHO accredited institutions and non-accredited facilities with regard to having HECs. Physicians accounted for 22% of HEC membership, followed by nurses (15%), and administrators (12%). Twenty-six percent of facilities systematically notified patients about existence of the HEC; 71% of facilities had no patient request for HEC services in the last year. A patient's danger to others, and resuscitation policy were issues most frequently (23%) heard by HECs



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