The Hospital Ethics Committee (HEC) of the University of Kansas Hospital and its subcommittee, the Pediatric Ethics Committee, serve the entire hospital and medical center community by encouraging and supporting: ethical reflection, mutually respectful dialogue, critical analysis, and most importantly, standards of conduct which reflect this institution’s commitment to patient-centered care.
The Hospital Ethics Committee has three functions or roles: education, policy review and development, and ethics consultation and case review.
The committee develops or assists others in the development of lectures, seminars, workshops, courses, rounds, and in-service programs in clinical ethics. The aim is to provide participants with access to the language, concepts, principles and body of knowledge about ethics that they need in order to address complex ethical dimensions of contemporary hospital practice.
The committee assists the hospital and its professional staff in the development of policies and procedures regarding recurrent ethical issues, questions or problems that arise in the care of patients. In this role the committee may provide analysis of the ethical aspects of existing or proposed policy or assist in the development of new institutional policy in areas of need.
An important function of the committee is its role as a forum for analysis of ethical questions which rise in the care of individual patients. In many circumstances these questions concern appropriate care of patients with diminished capacity to participate in decision-making regarding their care. In its consultation role the committee’s ethics consultation service attempts to provide support and counsel to those responsible for treatment decisions including health care providers, patients, surrogates and members of the patient’s family.
Clinical ethics consultation and case review is particularly recommended in three specific categories of decision-making:
decisions involving significant ethical ambiguity and perplexity in which consultation may provide insight into complex ethical issues;
decisions involving disagreement between care providers or between providers and patients/families regarding the ethical aspects of a patient’s care;
decisions that involve withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, especially those which are not adequately addressed in policies and procedures included in the Hospital Clinical Ethics Handbook.
In this consultation role the committee does not act as a decision-making body, but attempts to assist and to provide support to those who do have this responsibility. Its role in all such cases is advisory.
The Hospital Ethics Committee and its sub-committee, the Pediatric Ethics Committee, may be accessed for ethics consultation 24 hours a day by calling the hospital’s page operator at 913-588-5155. The operator always has access to the on-call schedule of consultants and will either page them or provide contact information to the requester. The consultation service for adult patients may be reached directly anytime by using the dedicated pager number 913-917-1579. It is possible also to place an ethics consultation request electronically in Epic O2 (electronic medical record) as a physician’s order. The Pediatric committee is consulted for patients who are under 18 years of age, and that contact number is available also by calling 913-588-5155.In addition to formal consultation, ethics consultants welcome questions or requests for informal discussion of clinical ethics. A current list of ethics committee members and consultants can be obtained by contacting the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine at 913-588-7040.