Local Hospital’s Bioethics Committee
Local Hospital’s Bioethics Committee
The bioethics committee of the hospital is charged with the duty of supporting patients’ rights and helps them, their families and the entire health care team makes informed and sound decisions concerning health care in general. The entire members of the committee are well-trained in patient-care and medical issues and can give the management and the health-care team relevant professional advices from various points of view that can enable them articulate and arrive at the appropriate health decisions. However, the committee is not charged with the role of making decisions, but rather being a vital resource for the establishment and the clients in general.
The bioethics committee consists of doctors, social workers, nurses, patient representatives, community-and hospital-based physicians, residents and neighboring community, parents, biomedical ethicists, hospital administration, and clergy. The key roles of the committee include review and recommend guidelines of the hospital for issues regarding ethics that may arise and are related to Children care. Secondly, the committee is charged the responsibility of familiarizing the hospital staff and the entire community with issues related to ethics that are faced by families, parents and healthcare providers who are concerned with ongoing care for children who are desperately ill. Lastly, the committees have special sessions where they meet to issue necessary guidelines and serve in the capacity of sounding board for families, parents, and healthcare professionals to converse on specific ethical concerns.
When a child is admitted in the hospital, timely decisions must be in order to give appropriate medical attention. The decisions are not dependent on an individual’s discretion. Rather, the decision is arrived at by a group of people, such as the patient, her or his family, healthcare providers and physicians. Since different individuals hold different values, viewpoints, and religious beliefs that may be conflicting, arriving at a common decision regarding the best course of action for the child may be quite daunting. To ensure the committee functions as a team, a number of guidelines have been established that the members are supposed to follow strictly. These guidelines include:
The number of members in the committee must be consistent with the requirements of the hospital and not so large to an extent that it gets unwieldy. Members of the committee should be carefully selected based on their concern for the wellbeing of the infirm and the sick, their reputation among their peers and the community in general for mature judgment and integrity, and their overall interest in matters pertaining to ethics. Previous experience working as a member the establishment concerned or of a medical society committee that deals with quality assurance or ethical conduct should be taken into serious cognizance when selecting members of the committee. In addition, the members who are tasked with the duty of serving in the committee should not have other duties that not line with their responsibility as members of the medical committee.
The responsibilities of the ethical committee should be restricted to ethical matters. In the US, it is recommended that the committee adheres to the Code of Medical Ethics as a guide in making informed and professional decisions. The issues that the committee should consider deliberating on must consist of majorly ethical subjects that a bigger percentage of its members may find reasonable to discuss, or that are recommended by the hospital’s administration. The committee can also take up an issue if it is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that it meets the requirements of being discussed after an appropriate request is made by families, parents, or health care providers.
The deliberations and consequent communication of recommendations together with every step followed by the committee must agree with the ethical and institutional policies set to preserve confidentiality of information pertaining patients.
All members of the committee must be prepared to meet even on a short notice and submit their recommendations in a prompt and timely fashion in harmony with the requirements of the issues involved and situation at hand.
Since the institution is affiliated to a religious denomination, all recommendations that are made by the bioethical committee must conform to the published religious principles and tenets. When a religious belief is being taken into account in any recommendation made by the committee, the fact must be well publicized to patients, physicians, and all the other stakeholders who are concerned with the recommendations of the committee.
Whenever a patient and family seek expert recommendations from the committee, it is worth noting that the committee does neither make the ultimate decisions for them nor tell the medical practitioners how to proceed. It only serves to offer support and guidance. Apart for discussing ethical matters, the committee has also other crucial roles such as staying up-to-date on any advances in medical technology, changes in the law and relevant developments in medical bioethics. The entire team assists the rest in understanding the basic information concerning making decision in healthcare through playing a pivotal role in reviewing and then commenting on new proposed guidelines, identifying situations or issues that may require future address and ensuring existing policies are kept current.
According to the chairman, the bioethical committee has made a significant impact in solving ethical issues within the hospital. It has majorly played a vital role in educating and advising the hospital staff, patients and management. As a matter of fact, it has tremendously solved complicated and unusual ethical problems that involve the issues which affect treatment and care of outpatients and admitted patients in the hospital. The recommendations that are made by the committee impose no obligation that the institution, medical staff, the governing board, attending physicians or other concerned person must accept. Nonetheless, sound recommendations made by committed and dedicated committee are always taken into serious cognizance by the people charged with the duty of making decisions. The chairman however felt that there are also a number of issues that the committee should be charged with the obligation of handling. Such issues include: interpreting advance directives, end of life options as last option, patients who refuse beneficial treatment, negotiating alternative and complementary medicine, disclosure of mistakes, noncompliant and difficult patients, disability and ‘quality of life, and deciding whether or when to call state agencies. These are fundamental issues that affect the hospital on a daily basis and are never fully resolved since the bioethical committee does not have the mandate to deliberate on them.
On attending one of the meetings held by the committee, I confirmed the earlier words by the chairperson. Indeed, the committee is an integral component of the institution. The issues it deliberates on are very imperative for the hospital. Furthermore, the committee is made of professionals from different profession and they are well-informed on different issues and are able to arrive at the best decisions within a very short time. I further noted that there are different ways in which one can approach matters with the committee. An ethical issue can be best described sometimes when only an individual appears to speak with the committee. However, come cases may require a more informed people may come along with the concerned to appear before the committee. These can be family members, authorized representative, health care agent and a doctor. In some cases, one member of the committee can meet with a family or patient in order to discuss a concern.
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