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Importance of systematic deliberation and stakeholder presence: a national study of clinical ethics committees

Abstract

Background Case consultation performed by clinical ethics committees (CECs) is a complex activity which should be evaluated. Several evaluation studies have reported stakeholder satisfaction in single institutions. The present study was conducted nationwide and compares clinicians’ evaluations on a range of aspects with the CEC’s own evaluation.

Methods Prospective questionnaire study involving case consultations at 19 Norwegian CECs for 1 year, where consultations were evaluated by CECs and clinicians who had participated.

Results Evaluations of 64 case consultations were received. Cases were complex with multiple ethical problems intertwined. Clinicians rated the average CEC consult highly, being both satisfied with the process and perceiving it to be useful across a number of aspects. CEC evaluations corresponded well with those of clinicians in a large majority of cases. Having next of kin/patients present was experienced as predominantly positive, though practised by only half of the CECs. The educational function of the consult was evaluated more positively when the CEC used a systematic deliberation method.

Conclusions CEC case consultation was found to be a useful service. The study is also a favourable evaluation of the Norwegian CEC system, implying that it is feasible to implement well-functioning CECs on a large scale. There are good reasons to involve the stakeholders in the consultations as a main rule.

  • clinical ethics
  • ethics committees/consultation
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