Outcomes of clinical ethics support near the end of life: A systematic review

Nursing Ethics 27 (3):838-854 (2020)
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Background: Clinical ethics support services have been advocated in recent decades. In clinical practice, clinical ethics support services are often requested for difficult decisions near the end of life. However, their contribution to improving healthcare has been questioned and demands for evaluation have been put forward. Research indicates that there are considerable challenges associated with defining adequate outcomes for clinical ethics support services. In this systematic review, we report findings of qualitative studies and surveys, which have been conducted to evaluate clinical ethics support services near the end of life. Methods: Electronic databases and other sources were queried from 1970 to May 2018. Two authors screened studies independently. Methodological quality of studies was assessed. For each arm of the review, an individual synthesis was performed. Prospero ID: CRD42016036241. Ethical Considerations: Ethical approval is not needed as it is a systematic review of published literature. Results: In all, 2088 hits on surveys and 2786 on qualitative studies were found. After screening, nine surveys and four qualitative studies were included. Survey studies report overall positive findings using a very wide and heterogeneous range of outcomes. Negative results were reported only occasionally. However, methodological quality and conceptual justification of used outcomes was often weak and limits generalizability of results. Conclusion: Evidence points to positive outcomes of clinical ethics support services. However, methodological quality needs to be improved. Further qualitative or mixed-method research on evaluating clinical ethics support services may contribute to the development of evaluating outcomes of clinical ethics support services by means of broaden the range of appropriate (process-oriented) outcomes of (different types of) clinical ethics support services.



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