Quality in ethics consultations

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4):761-774 (2013)
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There is an increasing need for quality in ethics consultations, though there have been significant achievements in the United States and Europe. However, fundamental concerns that place the profession in jeopardy are discussed from the perspective of the U.S. in a manner that will be helpful for other countries. The descriptive component of the essay (the first two points) explains the achievements in ethics quality (illustrated by the IntegratedEthics program of the Veterans Health Administration) and the progress on standards and competencies for ethics consultations (represented by the Core Competencies of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities). Based on these achievements, the analytical component of the essay (the final three points) identifies and seeks to resolve three fundamental concerns (with increasing levels of importance) that compromise quality in ethics consultations: standards of quality; professionalism; and credentialing. The analysis argues for clearer standards of quality in ethics consultation and urges further professionalism by explaining the need for the following: interpreting the ASBH core competencies in a normative manner, developing a Code of Ethics, and clarifying the meaning of best practices. However, the most serious concern that threatens quality in ethics consultations is the lack of a credentialing process. This concern can be resolved effectively by developing an independent Ethics Consultation Accreditation Council to accredit and standardize graduate degree programs, fellowship experiences, and qualifying examinations. This credentialing process is indispensable if we are to strategically enhance quality in ethics consultations



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