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Need for ethics support in healthcare institutions: views of Dutch board members and ethics support staff
  1. Linda Dauwerse1,
  2. Tineke Abma1,
  3. Bert Molewijk1,2,
  4. Guy Widdershoven1
  1. 1VU University Medical Centre, Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam,The Netherlands
  2. 2GGNet, Institute for Mental Health Care, Warnsveld, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Linda Dauwerse, Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; l.dauwerse{at}


Objective The purpose of this article is to investigate the need for ethics support in Dutch healthcare institutions in order to understand why ethics support is often not used in practice and which factors are relevant in this context.

Methods This study had a mixed methods design integrating quantitative and qualitative research methods. Two survey questionnaires, two focus groups and 17 interviews were conducted among board members and ethics support staff in Dutch healthcare institutions.

Findings Most respondents see a need for ethics support. This need is related to the complexity of contemporary healthcare, the contribution of ethics support to the core business of the organisation and to the surplus value of paying structural attention to ethical issues. The need for ethics support is, however, not unconditional. Reasons for a lacking need include: aversion of innovations, negative associations with the notion of ethics support service, and organisational factors like resources and setting.

Conclusion There is a conditioned need for ethics support in Dutch healthcare institutions. The promotion of ethics support in healthcare can be fostered by focusing on formats which fit the needs of (practitioners in) healthcare institutions. The emphasis should be on creating a (culture of) dialogue about the complex situations which emerge daily in contemporary healthcare practice.

  • Clinical ethics
  • clinical ethics committees
  • mixed methods
  • ethics consultation
  • moral case deliberation
  • ethics committees/consultation

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  • Funding This research has been possible partly due to a grant from the Department of Ethics at the Dutch Ministry of Health Welfare and Sports.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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