The care of patients in a hospital setting is complex. There are often situations where difficult health care decisions need to be made and the people involved in a patient’s treatment aren’t sure about what to do. For example, a patient’s family member may see things differently than the members of the health care team. There are even conflicts that arise within families about decisions that need to be made.
Bayhealth has an interdisciplinary Ethics Committee that considers ethical issues arising in the care of patients. Members of the Ethics Committee include physicians, nurses, social workers, administrators, community members, and others. The purpose of Bayhealth’s Ethics Committee is to support patients, families, and hospital staff in the resolution of ethical issues that may occur in the course of hospitalization.
The main role of Bayhealth’s Ethics Committee is to review specific, individual patient-care situations and dilemmas. The process aims to assist all those involved in having an open discussion about the patient’s care. Basically, an Ethics consultation is an opportunity to seek honest, thoughtful advice to help the patient, family, and health care team when difficult situations arise.
Bayhealth’s Ethics Committee members are on-call 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. When an ethics consult is needed, an Ethics nurse responds to the ethics consult, collects all the information, consults with the Ethics Committee, acts as a liaison for the healthcare team and the patient and family, and makes recommendations for the next course of action. Ethics Nurses are careful not to make specific medical recommendations, but they teach and inform the health care team about ethical principles. The full Ethics Committee meets routinely once a quarter to review all Ethics consults; however, all members of the committee can gather at any time to address immediate issues.
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