Just a Collection of Recollections: Clinical Ethics Consultation and the Interplay of Evaluating Voices

HEC Forum 28 (4):301-320 (2016)
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Despite increased attention to the question of how best to evaluate clinical ethics consultations and emphasis on external evaluation, there has been little sustained focus on how we, as clinicians, make sense of and learn from our own experiences in the midst of any one consultation. Questions of how we evaluate the request for, unfolding of, and conclusion of any specific ethics consultation are often overlooked, along with the underlying question of whether it is possible to give an accurate account of clinical ethics consultants’ experience as experienced by ethics consultants. Before the challenge of submitting one’s accounts or case reports for review and evaluation from others, there is an underlying challenge of understanding and evaluating our own accounts. To highlight this crucial and deeply challenging dimension of actual clinical ethics practice, we present an account of a complex consultation, explicitly constructed to engage the reader in the unfolding experience of the consultant by emphasizing the multiple perspectives unfolding within the consultant’s experience. Written in script format, the three perspectives presented—prototypical clinically descriptive account; didactically reflective and self-evidentiary account often seen in journal presentations; highly self-critical reflective account emphasizing uncertainties inherent to clinical ethics practice—reflect different manners for responding to the ways actual clinical involvement in ethics consultation practice accentuates and refocuses the question of how to understand and evaluate our own work, as well as that of our colleagues.



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