HEC Forum

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 99-114

First online:

Functions and Outcomes of a Clinical Medical Ethics Committee: A Review of 100 Consults

  • Jessica Richmond MoellerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Akron General Medical Center
  • , Teresa H. AlbaneseAffiliated withHealth Services Research and Education Institute, Summa Health System and Northeast Ohio Medical University
  • , Kimberly GarcharAffiliated withKent State University
  • , Julie M. AultmanAffiliated withDepartment of Family and Community Medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University
  • , Steven RadwanyAffiliated withPalliative Care and Hospice Services, Summa Health System and Northeast Ohio Medical University Email author 
  • , Dean FrateAffiliated withInternal Medicine, Palliative Care and Hospice Services, Summa Health System and Northeast Ohio Medical UniversityUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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Context: Established in 1997, Summa Health System’s Medical Ethics Committee (EC) serves as an educational, supportive, and consultative resource to patients/families and providers, and serves to analyze, clarify, and ameliorate dilemmas in clinical care. In 2009 the EC conducted its 100th consult. In 2002 a Palliative Care Consult Service (PCCS) was established to provide supportive services for patients/families facing advanced illness; enhance clinical decision-making during crisis; and improve pain/symptom management. How these services affect one another has thus far been unclear. Objectives: This study describes EC consults: types, reasons, recommendations and utilization, and investigates the impact the PCCS may have on EC consult requests or recommendations. Methods: Retrospective reviews of 100 EC records explored trends and changes in types of consults, reasons for consults, and EC recommendations and utilization. Results: There were 50 EC consults each in the 6 years pre- and post-PCCS. Differences found include: (1) a decrease in number of reasons for consult requests (133–62); (2) changes in top two reasons for EC consult requests from ‘Family opposed to withdrawing life-sustaining treatment (LST)’ and ‘Patient capacity in question’ to ‘Futility’ and ‘Physician opposed to providing LST’; (3) changes in top two recommendations given by the EC from ‘Emotional Support for Patient/Family’ and ‘Initiate DNR Order’ to ‘Comfort Care’ and ‘Withdraw Treatment.’ Overall, 88% of recommendations were followed. Conclusion: PCCS availability and growth throughout the hospital may have influenced EC consult requests. EC consults regarding family opposition to withdrawing LST and EC recommendations for patient/family support declined.


Ethics Hospital ethics committee End-of-life decision making Palliative care Consult service