Project Examining Effectiveness in Clinical Ethics (PEECE): Phase 1 -- Descriptive Analysis of Nine Clinical Ethics Services
Journal of Medical Ethics 2005 September; 31(9): 505-512
OBJECTIVE: The field of clinical ethics is relatively new and expanding. Best practices in clinical ethics against which one can benchmark performance have not been clearly articulated. The first step in developing benchmarks of clinical ethics services is to identify and understand current practices. DESIGN AND SETTING: Using a retrospective case study approach, the structure, activities, and resources of nine clinical ethics services in a large metropolitan centre are described, compared, and contrasted. RESULTS: The data yielded a unique and detailed account of the nature and scope of clinical ethics services across a spectrum of facilities. General themes emerged in four areas-variability, visibility, accountability, and complexity. There was a high degree of variability in the structures, activities, and resources across the clinical ethics services. Increasing visibility was identified as a significant challenge within organisations and externally. Although each service had a formal system for maintaining accountability and measuring performance, differences in the type, frequency, and content of reporting impacted service delivery. One of the most salient findings was the complexity inherent in the provision of clinical ethics services, which requires of clinical ethicists a broad and varied skill set and knowledge base. Benchmarks including the average number of consults/ethicist per year and the hospital beds/ethicist ratio are presented. CONCLUSION: The findings will be of interest to clinical ethicists locally, nationally, and internationally as they provide a preliminary framework from which further benchmarking measures and best practices in clinical ethics can be identified, developed, and evaluated.
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