Mind the Gap: The Lack of Common Language in Healthcare Ethics
Kekewich, Michael A
Cornick, Jennifer L
Foreman, Thomas C
The Journal of clinical ethics 2011 Fall; 22(3): 261-6
Ethics consultation services provide support to staff, patients, and family members who find themselves in morally difficult situations in healthcare settings. Not unlike other clinical consultation services, ethics consultation activities should be well documented. Good documentation allows for evaluation of the consultation process and the ability to refer back to consults when needed, and provides data for future research in healthcare ethics (HCE). In our exploration of existing HCE documentation systems, we identified two main points of interest. First, HCE information documentation systems are powerful tools for providing information on ethics consultation services.These documentation systems can be used to produce detailed reports on various HCE activities both institutionally and cross-institutionally. Second, our findings indicate greater agreement in the language and terminology of HCE needs to be established. Cultivation of such common language is needed in order to develop a standard healthcare ethicists can use to document and categorize consults. Standardization of language would allow data to be readily comparable and lead to more consistency in documentation of ethics consultations. Ultimately, standardization of documentation can also constitute a standard of practice for HCE in general.The development of such standards is essential for any developing profession, and will be required for HCE as it moves in towards professionalization in Canada.
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