The Norwegian national project for ethics support in community health and care services

BMC Medical Ethics 17 (1):70 (2016)
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Abstract

BackgroundInternationally, clinical ethics support has yet to be implemented systematically in community health and care services. A large-scale Norwegian project attempted to increase ethical competence in community services through facilitating the implementation of ethics support activities in 241 Norwegian municipalities. The article describes the ethics project and the ethics activities that ensued.MethodsThe article first gives an account of the Norwegian ethics project. Then the results of two online questionnaires are reported, characterizing the scope, activities and organization of the ethics activities in the Norwegian municipalities and the ethical topics addressed.ResultsOne hundred and thirty-seven municipal contact persons answered the first survey, whereas 217 ethics facilitators from 48 municipalities responded to the second. The Norwegian ethics project is vast in scope, yet has focused on some institutions and professions whilst seldom reaching others. Patients and next of kin were very seldom involved. Through the ethics project employees discussed many important ethical challenges, in particular related to patient autonomy, competence to consent, and cooperation with next of kin. The “ethics reflection group” was the most common venue for ethics deliberation.ConclusionsThe Norwegian project is the first of its kind and scope, and other countries may learn from the Norwegian experiences. Professionals have discussed central ethical dilemmas, the handling of which arguably makes a difference for patients/users and service quality. The study indicates that large scale implementation of CES structures for the municipal health and care services is complex, yet feasible.

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