Client Participation in Moral Case Deliberation: A Precarious Relational Balance [Book Review]

HEC Forum 23 (3):207-224 (2011)
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Moral case deliberation (MCD) is a form of clinical ethics support in which the ethicist as facilitator aims at supporting professionals with a structured moral inquiry into their moral issues from practice. Cases often affect clients, however, their inclusion in MCD is not common. Client participation often raises questions concerning conditions for equal collaboration and good dialogue. Despite these questions, there is little empirical research regarding client participation in clinical ethics support in general and in MCD in particular. This article aims at describing the experiences and processes of two MCD groups with client participation in a mental healthcare institution. A responsive evaluation was conducted examining stakeholders’ issues concerning client participation. Findings demonstrate that participation initially creates uneasiness. As routine builds up and client participants meet certain criteria, both clients and professionals start thinking beyond ‘us-them’ distinctions, and become more equal partners in dialogue. Still, sentiments of distrust and feelings of not being safe may reoccur. Client participation in MCD thus requires continuous reflection and alertness on relational dynamics and the quality of and conditions for dialogue. Participation puts the essentials of MCD (i.e., dialogue) to the test. Yet, the methodology and features of MCD offer an appropriate platform to introduce client participation in healthcare institutions



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Guy Widdershoven
VU University Amsterdam