Reimagining Thriving Ethics Programs without Ethics Committees

American Journal of Bioethics:1-16 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

With the increasing professionalization of clinical ethics, some hospitals and health systems utilize both ethics committees and professional clinical ethicists to address their ethics needs. Drawing upon historical critiques of ethics committees and their own experiences, the authors argue that, in ethics programs with one or more professional clinical ethicists, ethics committees should be dissolved when they fail to meet minimum standards of effectiveness. The authors outline several criteria for assessing effectiveness, describe the benefits of a model that places primary responsibility for ethics work with professional clinical ethicists—the PCE-primary model, and offer suggestions for alternative ethics program structures that empower healthcare professionals to contribute to ethics work in ways more tailored to their strengths and skills while minimizing the shortcomings of ethics committees.

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Author Profiles

Thomas V. Cunningham
Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles
Jordan Potter
University of Missouri, St. Louis

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