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Optimising the documentation practices of an Ethics Consultation Service
  1. K A Bramstedt,
  2. A R Jonsen,
  3. W S Andereck,
  4. J W McGaughey,
  5. A B Neidich
  1. California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Katrina A Bramstedt, Clinical Ethicist, Program in Medicine & Human Values, California Pacific Medical Center, 2395 Sacramento Street, 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA 94115 USA; txbioethics{at}


A formal Ethics Consultation Service (ECS) can provide significant help to patients, families and hospital staff. As with any other form of clinical consultation, documentation of the process and the advice rendered is very important. Upon review of the published consult documentation practices of other ECSs, we judged that none of them were sufficiently detailed or structured to meet the needs and purposes of a clinical ethics consultation. Thus, we decided to share our method in order to advance the practice of ethics consultation. Here, we describe a method of ECS documentation practice, including use of a formal consult report template, as well as a log for maintaining a chronological record of the consultations performed. These two documents facilitate order and organisation of the ECS. They also enable the ECS to keep an account of professional time and experience, enable quick consult trend assessments (by consult theme or ward, for example) and establish a potential registry of consults for future research study. This method of documentation, we believe, not only contributes significantly to the primary purpose of the consultation—namely, the evincing and sharing of ethical opinion about a case—but also enables consultants to improve their practice and to pursue research on clinical ethics consultation.

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  • Funding: This manuscript is the work of the Ethics Consultation Service. The Ethics Consultation Service is supported by California Pacific Medical Center and the Program in Medicine and Human Values.

  • Competing interests: None.