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The value of clinical ethics support in Australian health care

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Clinical ethics support may benefit professional practice, and we should evaluate it in Australian health care

Professional practice in health care inevitably involves difficult ethical considerations that are often embedded in universal events: birth, periods of ill health, and death. Clinicians may be unsure in these situations about what exactly they should do. In light of this circumstance, ethics should no longer be an implicit component of Australian health care, but instead be explicitly recognised and practised. Clinical ethics support (CES) would help to optimise the ethical delivery of patient care.

The aim of CES — whether it is provided by a clinical ethics committee, an ethics consultant (a trained ethicist who supports professionals or institutions), or a combination of both — is to assist ethical decision making in health care. CES is often invited when a specific need for ethics advice arises in the context, for example, of a difficult clinical case or problem, an educational need, or a gap in policy.

  “The development of [clinical ethics support]
   in Australia currently lags well behind that in
      other countries”

Ethics is included in Australian medical training curricula, such as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Professional Qualities Curriculum, and is expected…