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Frequent Questions

  1. Do all hospitals have ethics committees?
     
  2. How do I request an ethics consult?
     
  3. Does Bioethical Services of Virginia, Inc. represent any particular ethical or religious perspective?
     
  4. Does Bioethical Services of Virginia, Inc. work directly with the public, or only through hospitals?
     
  5. What kind of training does a person need to be an ethicist?
     
  6. What is the most important thing that I can do to avoid ethical problems for myself or my loved ones?

 

  1. Q. Do all hospitals have ethics committees?

    A. All accredited facilities are required to have some mechanism in place for the discussion and resolution of ethical issues in patient care and organizational ethics issues. This requirement does not stipulate any particular format for an ethics committee, so the ethics programs at different hospitals will vary greatly. If you have an ethical issue while at an American hospital, however, there should be some way to initiate an ethics consultation procedure.

     
  2. Q. How do I request an ethics consult?

    A. While in a health care facility, the most appropriate way to raise an ethical issue is to discuss the matter with your attending physician. If you are uncomfortable talking to your doctor, you may also call the hospital chaplain. Additionally, any staff person at the facility should be able to tell you how to access the ethics committee for assistance. If you would like our assistance in dealing with an ethical issue that you or a loved one faces, please call our office at (434)384-5322.

     
  3. Q. Does Bioethical Services of Virginia, Inc. represent any particular ethical or religious perspective?
     

    A. Absolutely not! Doing medical ethics well does not depend upon any particular religious or ethical point of view. Bioethical Services of Virginia, Inc. promotes a process oriented approach to ethics that allows individuals and groups to better understand their own ethical concepts, to fit those concepts within a broader social perspective, and to reason from those concepts to a rational conclusion (see the Introduction to Doing Medical Ethics in the resources section of this website).

     
  4. Q. Does Bioethical Services of Virginia, Inc. work directly with the public, or only through hospitals?

    A. While most of our business involves contracts with health care organizations, we have also responded to individual requests for assistance in dealing with specific problems. BSV, Inc. can help in many ways, often simply by explaining the issues that people face in clear language and helping patients to carefully consider their alternatives. Remember that we are committed to maintaining confidentiality, so we can only review a patientís record or discuss the details of a case after we have been explicitly invited to do so by a patient or a patientís physician.

     
  5. Q. What kind of training does a person need to be an ethicist?

    A. Almost half of those who are engaged in clinical ethics professionally are Ph.D. philosophers who have additional clinical training or experience. Almost half of those engaged in clinical ethics professionally are M.D.s who have additional training in ethics. The remaining percentage is made up of chaplains, lawyers, or other clinicians who have clinical ethics training. Although there are no licensing requirements in this field, there are core competency recommendations that have been developed by the American Society of Bioethics and the Humanities.

     
  6. Q. What is the most important thing that I can do to avoid ethical problems for myself or my loved ones?

    A. Communicate. The most important thing that every one of us can do in advance of a difficult moral problem, is to communicate to our loved ones about our values so there will be little doubt about what we value in life. A wonderful tool for this type of discussion is an Advance Directive. Every competent adult in our society would benefit by completing an advance directive.

 

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