Optimising the documentation practices of an Ethics Consultation Service

Katrina A. Bramstedt, A. R. Jonsen, W. S. Andereck, J. W. McGaughey, A. B. Neidich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A formal Ethics Consultation Service (ECS) can provide significant help to patients, families and hospital staff. As with any other form of clinical consultation, documentation of the process and the advice rendered is very important. Upon review of the published consult documentation practices of other ECSs, we judged that none of them were sufficiently detailed or structured to meet the needs and purposes of a clinical ethics consultation. Thus, we decided to share our method in order to advance the practice of ethics consultation. Here, we describe a method of ECS documentation practice, including use of a formal consult report template, as well as a log for maintaining a chronological record of the consultations performed. These two documents facilitate order and organisation of the ECS. They also enable the ECS to keep an account of professional time and experience, enable quick consult trend assessments (by consult theme or ward, for example) and establish a potential registry of consults for future research study. This method of documentation, we believe, not only contributes significantly to the primary purpose of the consultation - namely, the evincing and sharing of ethical opinion about a case - but also enables consultants to improve their practice and to pursue research on clinical ethics consultation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-50
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


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