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Keywords:

  • Clinical ethics committees;
  • ethics consultation;
  • qualitative research;
  • ethics;
  • hospitals;
  • conflict;
  • Norway

ABSTRACT

Clinical ethics committees have recently been established in nearly all Norwegian hospital trusts. One important task for these committees is clinical ethics consultations. This qualitative study explores significant barriers confronting the ethics committees in providing such consultation services. The interviews with the committees indicate that there is a substantial need for clinical ethics support services and, in general, the committee members expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the committee work. They also reported, however, that tendencies to evade moral disagreement, conflict, and ‘outsiders’ are common in the hospitals. Sometimes even the committees comply with some of these tendencies. The committees agree that there is a need to improve their routines and procedures, clarify the committees' profile and field of responsibility, to make the committees well-known, to secure adequate operating conditions, and to develop organizational integration and support. Various strategies to meet these challenges on a local, regional or national level are also explored in this paper.