Neglected Ends: Clinical Ethics Consultation and the Prospects for Closure

American Journal of Bioethics 15 (1):29-36 (2015)
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Abstract

Clinical ethics consultations are sometimes deemed complete at the moment when the consultants make a recommendation. In CECs that involve actual ethical conflict, this view of a consult's endpoint runs the risk of overemphasizing the conflict's resolution at the expense of the consult's process, which can have deleterious effects on the various parties in the conflict. This overly narrow focus on reaching a decision or recommendation in consults that involve profound moral disagreement can result in two types of adverse, lingering sequelae: moral distress or negative moral emotions. The problem, succinctly named, is that such consults have insufficient “closure” for patients, families, and providers. To promote closure, and avoid the ills of moral distress and the moral emotions, I argue that CECs need to prioritize assisted conversation between the different stakeholders in these conflicts, what is often referred to as “bioethics mediation.”

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