Ethics in Health Care
by Jay Stapleton, Ethics Committee member TBRHSC
“Ethical questions can happen at any point along a person’s health care journey. They may be large complex decisions or everyday decisions such as whether to cut corners at work, or lie to a friend to spare their feelings,” said Michelle Allain, Bioethicist.
Ethics Week brings focus to the resources available to the health care providers and staff who support patients and families. Allain, who helps guide ethical discussions at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Care Group and the North-West Community Care Access Centre, is participating in Ethics Week activities.
As a Bioethicist, Allain is trained to identify and help individuals understand ethical problems. “Bioethicists are a great resource for anyone with an ethics question or struggling with a complex decision,” said Allain. “The service is available to all patients, families, staff, physicians, students, and volunteers at all three organizations.” While open discussion among all those involved is encouraged, confidential consultations are also available.
At its core, bioethics focuses on the autonomy and well being of the patient, promoting justice, and avoiding harm. It’s every health care provider’s role to use their training and to provide care that is ethical and work with families to ensure any ethical concerns are addressed.
Some examples of common ethical questions are:
- How should we best use our limited resources for the best outcomes?
- What should we do when the patient’s values or desires conflict with those of their family or their clinical team?
- What can be done about bullying in the workplace?
The Bioethicist is a member of the health care team and can assist anyone in the organization work through focused discussions on these matters.
Ethical issues can also be found in less obvious places in the health care environment, such as in how we talk with personal acquaintances and family members who we encounter in our professional capacities; or how we balance the priorities of each person who is involved in the patient’s circle of care, such as balancing the benefit of sharing information with the privacy rights of the patient.
The Ethics Committee at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will be active during Ethics week (April 3 – 9). Members will bring an interactive display to various departments and offer an opportunity to discuss how a better understanding of formal ethics and the resources available for people facing an ethics issue can help improve the interactions between all stakeholders in health care. The Research Ethics Office will also highlight some of the work being done to ensure the ethical review of research projects at the Hospital, including Research Ethics Board review which is an important part of research oversight.