Discovering What Matters: Interrogating Clinician Responses to Ethics Consultation

Bioethics 31 (4):267-276 (2017)
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Abstract

Against the background assumptions that knowing what clinical ethics consultation represents to those with whom ethics consultants work most closely is a necessary component for being responsible in the practice of ethics consultation, and the complexities of soliciting and understanding colleague evaluations require another inherent responsibility for the methods by which ethics consultations are evaluated, in this article we report our experience soliciting, analyzing, and trying to understand retrospective evaluations of our Clinical Ethics Consultation Service. These evaluations were collected through a quality assessment effort at our institution. Drawing from the qualitative elements of our survey instrument, we describe unexpected variations among the requests for ethics consultation and the retrospective reports from those colleagues making the requests. Focusing on just one aspect – the reason for request – raised several core questions about how we should evaluate those retrospective reports, what could be learned from the differences that we were now encountering, and what we could learn about the process of evaluating our practices. Working through these questions, we suggest several issues to consider in ongoing efforts to describe and evaluate clinical ethics consultation: the role of time and memory in evaluating retrospective evaluations, the importance of attending to the language of moral shift or disruption with which our colleagues describe their experiences, and how to understand the role of ethics consultation in creating ‘moral space’ for colleagues to process their moral experiences.

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