Mapping Out Structural Features in Clinical Care Calling for Ethical Sensitivity: A Theoretical Approach to Promote Ethical Competence in Healthcare Personnel and Clinical Ethical Support Services (CESS)
Norheim, Ole Frithjof
Bioethics 2011 Sep; 25(7): 394-402
Clinical ethical support services (CESS) represent a multifaceted field of aims, consultancy models, and methodologies. Nevertheless, the overall aim of CESS can be summed up as contributing to healthcare of high ethical standards by improving ethically competent decision-making in clinical healthcare. In order to support clinical care adequately, CESS must pay systematic attention to all real-life ethical issues, including those which do not fall within the 'favourite' ethical issues of the day. In this paper we attempt to capture a comprehensive overview of categories of ethical tensions in clinical care. We present an analytical exposition of ethical structural features in judgement-based clinical care predicated on the assumption of the moral equality of human beings and the assessment of where healthcare contexts pose a challenge to achieving moral equality. The account and the emerging overview is worked out so that it can be easily contextualized with regards to national healthcare systems and specific branches of healthcare, as well as local healthcare institutions. By considering how the account and the overview can be applied to i) improve the ethical competence of healthcare personnel and consultants by broadening their sensitivity to ethical tensions, ii) identify neglected areas for ethical research, and iii) clarify the ethical responsibility of healthcare institutions' leadership, as well as specifying required institutionalized administration, we conclude that the proposed account should be considered useful for CESS.
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