Hospital Patients

Ethical decision making: How it works

Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Ethics Committee serves the hospital community by helping clarify ethical issues and concerns in patient care and treatment.

How can the Ethics Committee be contacted?

Any person involved in a patient’s care, including family members, patients, physicians, nurses or other care providers may contact a member of the Ethics Committee to discuss ethical concerns about the care and treatment of a patient.

To request an Ethics Committee consultation, you can do the following:

The Committee Chairperson or representative will respond and initiate a confidential review of the case. Recommendations from the Ethics Committee will be provided as quickly as possible.

If you have a concern regarding patient care that isn’t an ethical issue, you may contact the Patient Relations Specialist at 928-213-6561.

The role of the Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee functions in an advisory capacity, not in a decision-making role. The committee offers a confidential forum for anyone facing difficult medical choices or conflicts based on differences in values. Recommendations from the Ethics Committee are intended to help clarify and assist in the resolution of ethical issues. Patients, families and healthcare professionals maintain control of decisions regarding patient care and treatment.

What is an ethical dilemma?

Ethics is a system of moral principles or values. A dilemma occurs when a choice may need to be made that requires choosing between alternatives. Conflicts may arise based on differences in values, difficulties in communication or due to the severe stress of a critical illness. An ethics consultation can be helpful in these situations.

The consultation process

Consultation with the Ethics Committee can help to identify and provide resolution of ethical issues that may be the root of conflict in medical decision making. Members of the Ethics Committee will gather information from the patient or patient record, family members and those involved in the care of the patient, clarify potential ethical concerns, conduct a confidential discussion of the case with committee members and provide recommendations to address the ethical dilemma, which will be included in the patient’s chart.

Who serves on the Ethics Committee?

The Ethics Committee is a multidisciplinary group that serves as a resource for patients, families and all members of the healthcare team. The committee is composed of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, administrators, clergy and community representatives. All committee members share special interest and training in healthcare ethics. The Ethics Committee is dedicated to providing a safe and caring environment by upholding the highest ethical standards in patient care.

Examples of how the Ethics Committee can help

The committee can provide a forum for respectful dialogue when nurses, physicians or other care providers disagree over the best options for patient care. We offer support to family members in understanding the issues involved in stopping medically futile treatment.

We work to address questions about a patient’s or surrogate’s ability to make decisions about treatment. A surrogate is a person you designate to make healthcare decisions for you when you cannot do so yourself.