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Are hospital ethics committees really necessary?

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Reference notes

  1. 1.

    Ethical Currents, No. 8 (Sacramento, Calif.: Center for Bioethics, St. Joseph Health System and California Association of Catholic Hospitals, August 1986), p. 7.

  2. 2.

    Ibid., p. 7.

  3. 3.


  4. 4.


  5. 5.

    Marsha D. Fowler, “The Institutional Ethics Committee: Response to a Primal Scream,”Heart and Lung 15 (January 1986):102.

  6. 6.


  7. 7.


  8. 8.

    Carole Levine, “Questions and (Some Very Tentative) Answers About Hospital Ethics Committees,”Hastings Center Report 14 (June 1984):10.

  9. 9.

    Ginger Schafer Wlody and Susan Smith, “Ethical Dilemma in Critical Care: A Proposal for Hospital Ethics Advisory Committees,”Focus on Critical Care 12 (October 1985):45.

  10. 10.

    Stephen E. Olvey, “Ethics and Medicine: The Hospital Medical Ethics Committee,”Indiana Medicine 78 (June 1985):517.

  11. 11.

    In 1982, the case of Baby Doe caused many to look again at ethics committees. In April of that year, a Down's syndrome infant with an esophageal atresia was born in Monroe County, Indiana. Some physicians involved in the infant's care recommended immediate surgical repair of the atresia, while others thought that treatment should not be offered because the infant's quality of life would not be good. They believed the baby should be allowed to die. The parents chose nontreatment. The baby died, but not before a series of court hearing, rulings, and appeals. As the infant died of starvation, Indiana judges at all levels affirmed the parents' right to choose nontreatment (as long as it was recommended by a physician) for the child. The case received widespread and, for the most part, negative publicity. Ross,Handbook, p. 7.

  12. 12.

    Ronald E. Cranford and Edward A. Doudera, eds.,Institutional Ethics Committees and Health Care Decision Making. (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Health Administration Press, 1984), p. 9.

  13. 13.

    Ibid., p. 11.

  14. 14.

    Ibid. p. 11.

  15. 15.

    Bowen Hosford.Bioethics Committees: The Health Care Provider's Guide. (Rockville, Md.: Aspen Systems Corp., 1986), p. 93.

  16. 16.

    Robert P. Craig, Carl. L. Middleton and Laurence J. O'Connell.Ethics Committees: A Practical Approach. (St. Louis: Catholic Health Association of the United States, 1986), p. 5.

  17. 17.


  18. 18.

    Richard A. McCormick, “Ethics Committees: Promise or Peril?”Law, Medicine, and Health Care 12 (September 1984):153.

  19. 19.

    Craig, Middleton, and O'Connell,Ethics Committees, p. 5.

  20. 20.


  21. 21.

    McCormick, p. 153.

  22. 22.

    Craig, Middleton, and O'Connell,Ethics Committees, p. 5.

  23. 23.

    Hosford, p. 102.

  24. 24.


  25. 25.


  26. 26.

    Judith Wilson Ross.Handbook for Hospital Ethics Committees. (Chicago: American Hospital Publishing, 1986), p. 68.

  27. 27.

    In November 1978, the President's Commission was created; its members began work in January 1980. The United States Congress charged them to conduct studies and report on a number of topics, including the definition of death, informed consent, and access to health care. By Spring 1984, the commission had published nine reports addressing many of the problems then facing the health care system. Building upon the work that had been done in the 1960s and 1970s, the commission looked to find where consensus existed and where serious disagreements and uncertainties still remained. The President's Commission established a model for finding consensus where it existed and for articulating ethical conflicts when consensus could not be found. They did for the nation what each ethics committee can do for its hospital. Ross,Handbook, p. 5.

  28. 28.

    Hosford, p. 97.

  29. 29.

    Craig, Middleton, and O'Connell,Ethics Committees, p. 5.

  30. 30.

    Robert M. Kliegman, Mary B. Mahowald, and Stuart J. Younger, “In Our Best Interests: Experience and Workings of an Ethics Review Committee,”Journal of Pediatrics 108 (February 1986):186.

  31. 31.

    McCormick, p. 153.

  32. 32.

    Ibid., pp. 153–54.

  33. 33.

    Ibid., p. 154.

  34. 34.

    Ross, p. 93.

  35. 35.


  36. 36.

    J. D. Seay, “On Forming an Institutional Ethics Committee,”Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 61 (November 1985):849.

  37. 37.


  38. 38.

    Susan M. Wolf, “Ethics Committees in the Courts,”Hastings Center Report 16 (June 1986):14.

  39. 39.

    Ibid., p. 12.

  40. 40.

    Ibid., pp. 14–15.

  41. 41.

    Hosford,Bioethics Committees, p. 88.

  42. 42.

    John A. Robertson, “Ethics Committees in Hospitals: Alternative Structures and Responsibilities,”Connecticut Medicine 48 (July 1984):442.

  43. 43.


  44. 44.

    John La Puma and David L. Schiedermayer, “Must the Ethics Consultant See the Patient?”The Journal of Clinical Ethics 1 (Spring 1990):59.

  45. 45.

    Peter A. Singer, Edmund D. Pellegrino, and Mark Siegler, “Ethics Committees and Consultants,”The Journal of Clinical Ethics 1 (Winter 1990):264–65.

  46. 46.

    John La Puma and Stephen E. Toulmin, “Ethics Consultants and Ethics Committees,” paper presented at the conference, The Ethics Committee Revolution: Coming to Terms with Substance and Process, on Monday, 27 October 1986, at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Rancho Mirage, California, pp. 10–11.

  47. 47.

    Fowler, “The Institutional Ethics Committee,” p. 101.

  48. 48.

    Joan McIver Gibson and Thomasine Kimbrough Kushner, “Will the ‘Conscience of an Institution’ Become Society's Servant?”Hastings Center Report 16 (June 1986):9.

  49. 49.

    Committee on Ethics and Medical-Legal Affairs, “Institutional Ethics Committees' Roles, Responsibilities, and Benefits for Physicians,”Minnesota Medicine (August 1985) p. 607.

  50. 50.

    Gibson and Kushner, p. 9.

  51. 51.

    Mila Ann Aroskar, “Considerations in Establishing an Ethics Committee,”Association of Operating Room Nurses Journal, 40 (July 1984):88.

  52. 52.

    Ibid., p. 88.

  53. 53.

    For an indepth treatment of the role of the clergyperson/theologian on hospital ethics committees, see Richard S. Hipps, “Religion, the Clergy and Hospital Ethics Committees,”Sharing the Practice 11 (Spring 1988):5–20.

  54. 54.

    Aroskar, “Considerations in Establishing an Ethics Committee,” pp. 88–89.

  55. 55.

    Robertson, “Ethics Committees in Hospitals,” pp. 442–43.

  56. 56.

    Ibid., pp. 443–44.

  57. 57.

    Fay Adrienne Rozovsky, “Are Ethics Committees Ethical?”Canadian Doctor 52 (April 1986):19.

  58. 58.

    Dennis Brodeur, “Toward a Clear Definition of Ethics Committees,”Linacre Quarterly 15 (August 1984):238.

  59. 59.


  60. 60.

    Ibid., p. 244.

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Correspondence to Richard S. Hipps M.Div., Th.M., D.Min..

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Hipps, R.S. Are hospital ethics committees really necessary?. J Med Hum 13, 163–175 (1992).

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