Ethics Consultation for Adult Solid Organ Transplantation Candidates and Recipients: A Single Centre Experience

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 18 (2):291-303 (2021)
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Abstract

Systematic study of the intersection of ethics consultation services and solid organ transplants and recipients can identify and illustrate ethical issues that arise in the clinical care of these patients, including challenges beyond resource allocation. This was a single-centre, retrospective cohort study of all adult ethics consultations between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2017, at a large academic medical centre in the north-eastern United States. Of the 880 ethics consultations, sixty (6.8 per cent ) involved solid organ transplant, thirty-nine (65.0 per cent) for candidates and twenty-one (35.0 per cent ) for recipients. Ethics consultations were requested for 4.3 per cent of heart, 4.9 per cent of lung, 0.3 per cent of liver, and 0.3 per cent of kidney transplant recipients over the study period. Nurses were more likely to request ethics consultations for recipients than physicians (80.0 per cent vs 20.0 per cent, p = 0.006). The most common reason for consultation among transplant candidates was discussion about intensity of treatment or goals of care after the patient was not or was no longer a transplant candidate. The most common reason for ethics consultation among transplant recipients was disagreement between transplant providers and patients/families/non-transplant healthcare professionals over the appropriate intensity of treatment for recipients. Very few consultations involved questions about appropriate resource allocation. Ethics consultants involved in these cases most often navigated communication challenges between transplant and non-transplant healthcare professionals and patients and families.

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