Defense Mechanisms in Ethics Consultation

HEC Forum 23 (4):269-279 (2011)

Abstract
While there is no denying the relevance of ethical knowledge and analytical and cognitive skills in ethics consultation, such knowledge and skills can be overemphasized. They can be effectively put into practice only by an ethics consultant, who has a broad range of other skills, including interpretive and communicative capacities as well as the capacity effectively to address the psychosocial needs of patients, family members, and healthcare professionals in the context of an ethics consultation case. In this paper, I discuss how emotion can play an important interpretive role in clinical ethics consultation and why attention to the role of defense mechanisms can be helpful. I concentrate on defense mechanisms, arguing first, that the presence of these mechanisms is understandable given the emotional stresses and communicative occlusions that occur between the families of patients and critical care professionals in the circumstances of critical care; second, that identifying these mechanisms is essential for interpreting and managing how these factors influence the way that the “facts” of the case are understood by family members; and, third, that effectively addressing these mechanisms is an important component for effectively doing ethics consultation. Recognizing defense mechanisms, understanding how and why they operate, and knowing how to deal with these defense mechanisms when they pose problems for communication or decision making are thus essential prerequisites for effective ethics consultation, especially in critical care
Keywords Ethics consultation  Defense mechanism  Emotion  Communication
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DOI 10.1007/s10730-011-9165-6
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Introduction.Kurt W. Schmidt - 2011 - HEC Forum 23 (4):239-245.

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