In an important development, the Clinical Ethics Consultation Affairs (CECA) committee of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), released the first ever Code of Ethics for Health Care Ethics Consultants, setting out the core ethical responsibilities of individuals performing healthcare ethics consultation (HCEC).  The CECA, a standing committee of the ASBH, was established in 2009. Developing the code has required a multi-year effort. Our Joseph Carrese, MD, MPH, an inaugural and current member of the CECA committee, has been an active participant throughout the drafting this code.

Health care ethics consultants help to address difficult ethical questions or conflicting values and obligations that arise in the course of providing health care to patients. Consultants “seek to identify and support the appropriate decision maker(s) and to promote ethically sound decision making by facilitating communication among key stakeholders, fostering understanding, clarifying and analyzing ethical issues, and including justifications when recommendations are provided.”

The code is the latest product from the CECA committee, a group of recognized national leaders in ethics consultation. It  joins an earlier publication “HCEC Pearls and Pitfalls: Suggested Do’s and Don’t’s for Healthcare Ethics Consultants” written by Dr. Carrese and members of the CECA committee, which compiles lessons learned and advice for best practices related to ethics consultation.

According to Dr. Carrese, “In some sense it is surprising to think that health care ethics consultants haven’t had, until now, a code of ethics to guide their thinking and conduct, since so many other professional groups do have such codes and have had them for some time. On the other hand, it is only very recently that steps have been taken in the direction of professionalizing the field of health care ethics consultation – the development and dissemination of this code is one more very important development in that direction.”


For those interested in learning more – our Bioethics Intensives Program includes a day long course on clinical ethics consultation taught by Dr. Carrese and colleagues.

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Alan Regenberg

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