HEC Forum

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 147–158 | Cite as

Do Organizational and Clinical Ethics in a Hospital Setting Need Different Venues?

  • Reidun Førde
  • Thor Willy Ruud Hansen


The structure of ethics work in a hospital is complex. Professional ethics, research ethics and clinical ethics committees (CECs) are important parts of this structure, in addition to laws and national and institutional codes of ethics. In Norway all hospital trusts have a CEC, most of these discuss cases by means of a method which seeks to include relevant guidelines and laws into the discussion. In recent years many committees have received more cases which have concerned questions of principle. According to Ellen Fox and co-authors the traditional CEC model suffers from a number of weaknesses. Therefore, in their organization a separate body deals with organizational matters. In this paper, we discuss what is gained and what is lost by creating two separate bodies doing ethics consultation. We do this through an analysis of detailed minutes of CEC discussions in one CEC during a 6-year period. 30 % of all referrals concerned matters of principle. Some of these discussions originated in a dilemma related to a particular patient. Most of the discussions had some consequences within the hospital organization, for clinical practice, for adjustment of guidelines, or may have influenced national policy. We conclude that a multiprofessional CEC with law and ethics competency and patient representation may be well suited also for discussion of general ethical principles. A CEC is a forum which can help bridge the gap between clinicians and management by increasing understanding for each others’ perspectives.


Ethics committee Clinical ethics Organizational ethics Independency 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Medical EthicsUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Neonatology, Women’s and Children’s Division and Clinical Ethics Committee, Oslo University Hospital and Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOlsoNorway

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