The Role of an Ethics Committee in Resolving Conflict in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 23 (1):27-32 (1995)
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What should be the role of an institutional ethics committee in resolving conflict concerning patient care decisions in the neonatal intensive care unit? This question takes on added importance in light of recent court decisions which suggest that IEC deliberations may serve as persuasive evidence in court, of proposed state regulations that would establish an IEC as an alternative to judicial review, and of recent Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations guidelines that require an institutional policy on limitation or withdrawal of treatment to include a specified mechanism for resolving conflict. Unfortunately, despite these developments, prospective case consultation remains one of the most controversial and poorly understood aspects of IEC functions. Questions and concerns persist about the relation the IEC has and should have to actual decisions in specific cases.We briefly examine the clinical, organizational, and regulatory complexity of the NICU environment and suggest five potential sources of uncertainty, disagreement, and conflict among parent and NICU staff.



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