Objectives: To study knowledge and attitudes of hospital ethics committee members at the first workshop for ethics committees in Croatia.
Design: Before/after cross-sectional study using a self administered questionnaire.
Setting: Educational workshop for members of hospital ethics committees, Zagreb, 2003.
Main outcome measurements: Knowledge and attitudes of participants before and after the workshop; everyday functioning of hospital ethics committees.
Results: The majority of the respondents came from committees with at least five members. The majority of ethics committees were appointed by the governing bodies of their hospitals. Most committees were founded after the implementation of the law on health protection in 1997. Membership structure (three physicians and two members from other fields) and functions were established on the basis of that law. Analysis of research protocols was the main part of their work. Other important functions—education, case analysis, guidelines formation—were neglected. Members’ level of knowledge was not sufficient for the complicated tasks they were supposed to perform. However, it was significantly higher after the workshop. Most respondents felt their knowledge should be improved by additional education. Their views on certain issues and bioethical dilemmas displayed a high level of paternalism and over protectiveness, which did not change after the workshop.
Conclusions: The committees developed according to bureaucratic requirements. Furthermore, there are concerns about members’ knowledge levels. More efforts need to be made to use education to improve the quality of the work. Additional research is necessary to explore ethics committees’ work in Croatia especially in the hospital setting.
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