There is little research into the extent to which Hospice Ethics Committees exist or how they operate (Ballentine & Dalinis, 2014). In the wider health system clinical and research Ethics Committees are more commonplace. In some countries other than the UK, Hospice Ethics Committees are more common. The role of an advisory ethics committee is one that has emerged, particularly in the USA. However, other than in relation to research, there is little evidence of the emergence of Ethics Committees in the UK.
The aim of the project was to establish an Ethics Advisory Committee and identify if it could add value to staff, patients and family members.
An Ethics Advisory Committee was established through open recruitment. Terms of reference and an induction programme were developed. Committee members have considered ethical issues relating to clinical service, fundraising, purchasing and the use of volunteers. In order to raise awareness of its existence, the Committee initiated an online survey with hospice staff who were asked to identify the ethical issues they faced. In order to ‘launch’ the Committee, a seminar was held on ‘The Ethics of Hospice Admissions’ attended by staff members, external partners (referrers) and patient/carer representatives.
The online survey was completed by 11 members of the clinical team. This confirmed that clinical staff (across the hospice: in-patient care, day care, and community work) are facing ethical dilemmas at least once a month. The evaluation of the ethics seminar showed that staff and external stakeholders valued the access to an Ethics Committee created by the hospice.
The project suggests that hospices should consider establishing an Ethics Advisory Committee to support the resilience of staff and add value to key stakeholders.
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