Despite the increasing interest in clinical ethics, ethics consultation as a professional service is still rare in Europe. In this paper I refer to examples in the United States. In Germany, university hospitals and medical faculties are still hesitant about establishing yet another “committee”. One of the reasons for this hesitation lies in the ignorance that exists here about how to provide medical ethics services; another reason is that medical ethics itself is not yet institutionalised at many German universities. The most important obstacle, however, may be that medical ethics has not yet demonstrated its relevance to the needs of those caring for patients.
The Centre for Ethics and Law, Freiburg, has therefore taken a different approach from that offered elsewhere: clinical ethics consultation is offered on demand, the consultation being available to clinician(s) in different forms.
This paper describes our experiences with this approach; practical issues are illustrated by a case study.
- Ethics consultation
- hospital ethics committee
- critical decisions
- medical ethics in Germany
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Stella Reiter-Theil is a Medical Ethicist and the Research Co-ordinator of ZERM, and Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics in the Medical Faculty of Albert Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany. Address for correspondence: Privatdozentin Dr Stella Reiter-Theil, Dipl-Psych, Center for Ethics and Law in Medicine, University Hospital, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, Elsässer Str 2m, 1a, D-79110 Freiburg, Germany.