Author(s): Fox E, Myers S, Pearlman RA
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Abstract CONTEXT: Although ethics consultation is commonplace in United States (U.S.) hospitals, descriptive data about this health service are lacking. OBJECTIVE: To describe the prevalence, practitioners, and processes of ethics consultation in U.S. hospitals. DESIGN: A 56-item phone or questionnaire survey of the "best informant" within each hospital. PARTICIPANTS: Random sample of 600 U.S. general hospitals, stratified by bed size. RESULTS: The response rate was 87.4\%. Ethics consultation services (ECSs) were found in 81\% of all general hospitals in the U.S., and in 100\% of hospitals with more than 400 beds. The median number of consults performed by ECSs in the year prior to survey was 3. Most individuals performing ethics consultation were physicians (34\%), nurses (31\%), social workers (11\%), or chaplains (10\%). Only 41\% had formal supervised training in ethics consultation. Consultation practices varied widely both within and between ECSs. For example, 65\% of ECSs always made recommendations, whereas 6\% never did. These findings highlight a need to clarify standards for ethics consultation practices.
This article was published in Am J Bioeth
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Research & Bioethics