Do we understand the intervention? What complex intervention research can teach us for the evaluation of clinical ethics support services

BMC Medical Ethics 20 (1):48 (2019)
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Evaluating clinical ethics support services has been hailed as important research task. At the same time, there is considerable debate about how to evaluate CESS appropriately. The criticism, which has been aired, refers to normative as well as empirical aspects of evaluating CESS. In this paper, we argue that a first necessary step for progress is to better understand the intervention in CESS. Tools of complex intervention research methodology may provide relevant means in this respect. In a first step, we introduce principles of “complex intervention research” and show how CESS fulfil the criteria of “complex interventions”. In a second step, we develop a generic “conceptual framework” for “ethics consultation on request” as standard for many forms of ethics consultation in clinical ethics practice. We apply this conceptual framework to the model of “bioethics mediation” to make explicit the specific structural and procedural elements of this form of ethics consultation on request. In a final step we conduct a comparative analysis of two different types of CESS, which have been subject to evaluation research: “proactive ethics consultation” and “moral case deliberation” and discuss implications for evaluating both types of CESS. To make explicit different premises of implemented CESS interventions by means of conceptual frameworks can inform the search for sound empirical evaluation of CESS. In addition, such work provides a starting point for further reflection about what it means to offer “good” CESS.



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