The first clinical ethics committees in Norway were established in 1996. This started as an initiative from hospital clinicians, the Norwegian Medical Association, and health authorities and politicians. Norwegian hospitals are, by and large, publicly funded through taxation, and all inpatient treatment is free of charge. Today, all the 23 hospital trusts have established at least one committee. Center for Medical Ethics , University of Oslo, receives an annual amount of US$335,000 from the Ministry of Health and Care Services to (...) coordinate the committees and to facilitate competency building for committee members. (shrink)
Systematic ethics support in community health services in Norway is in the initial phase. There are few evaluation studies about the significance of ethics reflection on care. The aim of this study was to evaluate systematic ethics reflection in groups in community health , - from the perspectives of employees participating in the groups, the group facilitators and the service managers. The reflection groups were implemented as part of a research and development project.
Clinical ethics support, in particular Moral Case Deliberation, aims to support health care providers to manage ethically difficult situations. However, there is a lack of evaluation instruments regarding outcomes of clinical ethics support in general and regarding Moral Case Deliberation (MCD) in particular. There also is a lack of clarity and consensuses regarding which MCD outcomes are beneficial. In addition, MCD outcomes might be context-sensitive. Against this background, there is a need for a standardised but flexible outcome evaluation instrument. The (...) aim of this study was to develop a multi-contextual evaluation instrument measuring health care providers’ experiences and perceived importance of outcomes of Moral Case Deliberation. (shrink)
Ethics support in primary health care has been sparser than in hospitals, the need for ethics support is probably no less. We have, however, limited knowledge about how to develop ethics support that responds to primary health-care workers’ needs. In this article, we present a survey with a mixture of closed- and open-ended questions concerning: How frequent and how distressed various types of ethical challenges make the primary health-care workers feel, how important they think it is to deal with these (...) challenges better and what kind of ethics support they want. Five primary health-care institutions participated. Ethical challenges seem to be prominent and common. Most frequently, the participants experienced ethical challenges related to scarce resources and lack of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, ethical challenges related to communication and decision making were common. The participants welcomed ethics support responding to their challenges and being integrated in their daily practices. (shrink)
Clinical ethics committees have existed in Norway since 1996. By now all hospital trusts have one. An evaluation of these committees’ work was started in 2004. This paper presents results from an interview study of eight clinicians who evaluated six committees’ deliberations on 10 clinical cases. The study indicates that the clinicians found the clinical ethics consultations useful and worth while doing. However, a systematic approach to case consultations is vital. Procedures and mandate of the committees should be known to (...) clinicians in advance to ensure that they know what to expect. Equally important is bringing all relevant facts, medical as well as psychosocial, into the discussion. A written report from the deliberation is also important for the committees to be taken seriously by the clinicians. This study indicates that the clinicians want to be included in the deliberation, and not only in the preparation or follow-up. Obstacles for referring a case to the committee are the medical culture’s conflict aversion and its anxiety of being judged by outsiders. The committees were described as a court by some of the clinicians. This is a challenge for the committees in their attempt to balance support and critique in their consultation services. (shrink)
In recent years, the attention on the use of coercion in mental health care has increased. The use of coercion is common and controversial, and involves many complex ethical challenges. The research question in this study was: What kind of ethical challenges related to the use of coercion do health care practitioners face in their daily clinical work?
Clinical ethics committees have recently been established in nearly all Norwegian hospital trusts. One important task for these committees is clinical ethics consultations. This qualitative study explores significant barriers confronting the ethics committees in providing such consultation services. The interviews with the committees indicate that there is a substantial need for clinical ethics support services and, in general, the committee members expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the committee work. They also reported, however, that tendencies to evade moral disagreement, (...) conflict, and 'outsiders' are common in the hospitals. Sometimes even the committees comply with some of these tendencies. The committees agree that there is a need to improve their routines and procedures, clarify the committees' profile and field of responsibility, to make the committees well-known, to secure adequate operating conditions, and to develop organizational integration and support. Various strategies to meet these challenges on a local, regional or national level are also explored in this paper. (shrink)
Little is known about how health care professionals deal with ethical challenges in mental health care, especially when not making use of a formal ethics support service. Understanding this is important in order to be able to support the professionals, to improve the quality of care, and to know in which way future ethics support services might be helpful.
Professionals within the mental health services face many ethical dilemmas and challenging situations regarding the use of coercion. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the significance of participating in systematic ethics reflection groups focusing on ethical challenges related to coercion. In 2013 and 2014, 20 focus group interviews with 127 participants were conducted. The interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. The analysis is inspired by the concept of ‘bricolage’ which means our approach was inductive. Most participants report (...) positive experiences with participating in ethics reflection groups: A systematic and well-structured approach to discuss ethical challenges, increased consciousness of formal and informal coercion, a possibility to challenge problematic concepts, attitudes and practices, improved professional competence and confidence, greater trust within the team, more constructive disagreement and room for internal critique, less judgmental reactions and more reasoned approaches, and identification of potential for improvement and alternative courses of action. On several wards, the participation of psychiatrists and psychologists in the reflection groups was missing. The impact of the perceived lack of safety in reflection groups should not be underestimated. Sometimes the method for ethics reflection was utilised in a rigid way. Direct involvement of patients and family was missing. This focus group study indicates the potential of ethics reflection groups to create a moral space in the workplace that promotes critical, reflective and collaborative moral deliberations. Future research, with other designs and methodologies, is needed to further investigate the impact of ethics reflection groups on improving health care practices. (shrink)
The Norwegian Parliament has decided to give priority to ethics in municipal health services. This priority is supposed to raise competence in ethics within municipal health services. As part of the national project, the participating municipalities were encouraged to develop and carry out local projects. In this article, we present a local ethics project in one of the participating municipalities in central eastern Norway. The local project for raising competence in ethics was carried out in cooperation with researchers at the (...) Centre for Medical Ethics (CME) at the University of Oslo. Most people agree that ethics are important in health services. However, there are many ways to increase competence in ethics and to stimulate ethical reflection. In this article we present a broad overview of this local ethics project, but special focus will be put on presenting the actions that have been used for increasing the level of ethical competence and stimulating ethical reflection among the participants. We describe our evaluation of the project and the research we carried out. Explanations will be given for the thought process behind the decisions that were made. (shrink)
Empathy is generally regarded as important and positive. However, descriptions of empathy are often inadequate and deceptive. Furthermore, there is a widespread lack of critical attention to such deficiencies. This critical review of the medical discourse of empathy shows that tendencies to evade and misrepresent the understanding subject are common. The understanding subject’s contributions to the empathic process are often neglected or described as something that can and should be avoided or controlled. Furthermore, the intrinsic and closely interwoven relationship between (...) medical understanding and empathy is generally not explored. Instead of challenging objectivistic and instrumental ideals, the medical discourse of empathy tends to accommodate to inadequate ideals of objectivity and instrumentalism. Thus, important aspects of physician’s rationality, understanding, and morality are neglected and important opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and critique are forfeited. Both the critical and constructive parts of this paper are heavily inspired by philosophical hermeneutic insights, e.g. that physician’s empathy is always historically situated and part of a moral commitment. At the end of this paper, an alternative description of empathy - i.e. appropriate understanding of another human being - is outlined to facilitate the inclusion of hermeneutic insights and accentuate the inherent relationship between empathy and morality. (shrink)
The use of coercion is morally problematic and requires an ongoing critical reflection. We wondered if not knowing or being uncertain whether coercion is morally right or justified is related to professionals’ normative attitudes regarding the use of coercion. This paper describes an explorative statistical analysis based on a cross-sectional survey across seven wards in three Norwegian mental health care institutions. Descriptive analyses showed that in general the 379 respondents a) were not so sure whether coercion should be seen as (...) offending, b) agreed with the viewpoint that coercion is needed for care and security, and c) slightly disagreed that coercion could be seen as treatment. Staff did not report high rates of moral doubt related to the use of coercion, although most of them agreed there will never be a single answer to the question ‘What is the right thing to do?’. Bivariate analyses showed that the more they experienced general moral doubt and relative doubt, the more one thought that coercion is offending. Especially psychologists were critical towards coercion. We found significant differences among ward types. Respondents with decisional responsibility for coercion and leadership responsibility saw coercion less as treatment. Frequent experience with coercion was related to seeing coercion more as care and security. This study showed that experiencing moral doubt is related to some one’s normative attitude towards coercion. Future research could investigate whether moral case deliberation increases professionals’ experience of moral doubt and whether this will evoke more critical thinking and increase staff’s curiosity for alternatives to coercion. (shrink)
Coercion in mental health care gives rise to many ethical challenges. Many countries have recently implemented state policy programs or development projects aiming to reduce coercive practices and improve their quality. Few studies have explored the possible role of ethics in such initiatives. This study adds to this subject by exploring health professionals’ descriptions of their ethical challenges and strategies in everyday life to ensure morally justified coercion and best practices. Seven semi-structured telephone interviews were carried out in 2012 with (...) key informants in charge of central development projects and quality-assurance work in mental health services in Norway. No facilities used formal clinical ethics support. However, the informants described five areas in which ethics was of importance: moral concerns as implicit parts of local quality improvement initiatives; moral uneasiness and idealism as a motivational source of change; creating a normative basis for development work; value-based leadership; and increased staff reflexivity on coercive practices. The study shows that coercion entails both individual and institutional ethical aspects. Thus, various kinds of moral deliberation and ethics support could contribute to addressing coercion challenges by offering more systematic ways of dealing with moral concerns. However, more strategic use of implicit and institutional ethics is also needed. (shrink)
When clinical ethics committee members discuss a complex ethical dilemma, what use do they have for normative ethical theories? Members without training in ethical theory may still contribute to a pointed and nuanced analysis. Nonetheless, the knowledge and use of ethical theories can play four important roles: aiding in the initial awareness and identification of the moral challenges, assisting in the analysis and argumentation, contributing to a sound process and dialogue, and inspiring an attitude of reflexivity. These four roles of (...) ethical theory in clinical ethics consultation are described and their significance highlighted, while an example case is used as an illustration throughout. (shrink)
In many Western countries, studies have demonstrated extensive use of coercion in nursing homes, especially towards patients suffering from dementia. This article examines what kinds of strategies or alternative interventions nursing staff in Norway used when patients resist care and treatment and what conditions the staff considered as necessary to succeed in avoiding the use of coercion. The data are based on interdisciplinary focus group interviews with nursing home staff. The study revealed that the nursing home staff usually spent a (...) lot of time trying a wide range of approaches to avoid the use of coercion. The most common strategies were deflecting and persuasive strategies, limiting choices by conscious use of language, different kinds of flexibility and one-to-one care. According to the staff, their opportunities to use alternative strategies effectively are greatly affected by the nursing home’s resources, by the organization of care and by the staff’s competence. (shrink)
BackgroundEthically challenging critical events and decisions are common in nursing homes. This paper presents nursing home doctors’ descriptions of how they include the patient and next of kin in end-of-life decisions.MethodsWe performed ten focus groups with 30 nursing home doctors. Advance care planning; aspects of decisions on life-prolonging treatment, and conflict with next of kin were subject to in-depth analysis and condensation.ResultsThe doctors described large variations in attitudes and practices in all aspects of end-of-life decisions. In conflict situations, many doctors (...) were more concerned about the opinion of next of kin than ensuring the patient’s best interest.ConclusionsMany end-of-life decisions appear arbitrary or influenced by factors independent of the individual patient’s values and interests and are not based on systematic ethical reflections. To protect patient autonomy in nursing homes, stronger emphasis on legal and ethical knowledge among nursing home doctors is needed. (shrink)
How may clinical ethics committees inspire ethical reflection among healthcare professionals? How may they deal with organizational ethics issues? In recent years, Norwegian CECs have attempted different activites that stretch or go beyond the standard trio of education, consultation, and policy work. We studied the novel activities of Norwegian CECs by examining annual reports and interviewing CEC members. Through qualitative analysis we identified nine categories of novel CEC activities, which we describe by way of examples. In light of the findings, (...) we argue that some novel working methods may be well suited to promote ethical reflection among clinicians, and that the CEC may be a suitable venue for discussing issues of organizational ethics. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Background Fair prioritization of healthcare resources has been on the agenda for decades, but resource allocation dilemmas in clinical practice remain challenging. Can clinical ethics committees be of help? The aim of the study was to explore whether and how CECs handle priority setting dilemmas and contribute to raising awareness of fairness concerns. Method Descriptions of activities involving priority setting in annual reports from Norwegian CECs were studied and categorized through qualitative content analysis. Results Three hundred thirty-nine reports from 38 (...) CECs were studied. We found 78 activities where resource use or priority setting were explicitly highlighted as main topics. Of these, 29 were seminars or other educational activities, 21 were deliberations on individual patient cases, whereas 28 were discussions of principled or general cases. Individual patient cases concerned various distributional dilemmas where values were at stake. Six main topics and seven roles for the CEC were identified. CECs handle issues concerning the introduction of new costly drugs, extraordinarily costly established treatment, the application of priority setting criteria, resource use for vulnerable groups, resource constraints compromising practice, and futility of care. The CEC can act as an analyst, advisor, moderator, disseminator, facilitator, watch dog, and guardian of values and laws. Discussion In order to fulfil their responsibilities in handling priority setting cases, CECs need knowledge of both the ethics and the institutionalized systems of priority setting. There is potential for developing this aspect of the CECs’ work further. Conclusions The Norwegian CECs are involved in priority setting decisions where they can play multiple constructive roles. In particular, they advise and raise awareness of ethical aspects in resource allocations; bridge clinical practice with higher-level decisions; and promote fair resource allocation and stakeholder rights and interests. (shrink)
Fair prioritization of healthcare resources has been on the agenda for decades, but resource allocation dilemmas in clinical practice remain challenging. Can clinical ethics committees be of help? The aim of the study was to explore whether and how CECs handle priority setting dilemmas and contribute to raising awareness of fairness concerns. Descriptions of activities involving priority setting in annual reports from Norwegian CECs were studied and categorized through qualitative content analysis. Three hundred thirty-nine reports from 38 CECs were studied. (...) We found 78 activities where resource use or priority setting were explicitly highlighted as main topics. Of these, 29 were seminars or other educational activities, 21 were deliberations on individual patient cases, whereas 28 were discussions of principled or general cases. Individual patient cases concerned various distributional dilemmas where values were at stake. Six main topics and seven roles for the CEC were identified. CECs handle issues concerning the introduction of new costly drugs, extraordinarily costly established treatment, the application of priority setting criteria, resource use for vulnerable groups, resource constraints compromising practice, and futility of care. The CEC can act as an analyst, advisor, moderator, disseminator, facilitator, watch dog, and guardian of values and laws. In order to fulfil their responsibilities in handling priority setting cases, CECs need knowledge of both the ethics and the institutionalized systems of priority setting. There is potential for developing this aspect of the CECs’ work further. The Norwegian CECs are involved in priority setting decisions where they can play multiple constructive roles. In particular, they advise and raise awareness of ethical aspects in resource allocations; bridge clinical practice with higher-level decisions; and promote fair resource allocation and stakeholder rights and interests. (shrink)
BackgroundNorway has extensive and detailed legal requirements and guidelines concerning involvement of next of kin during involuntary hospital treatment of seriously mentally ill patients. However, we have little knowledge about what happens in practice. This study explores NOK’s views and experiences of involvement during involuntary hospitalisation in Norway.MethodsWe performed qualitative interviews-focus groups and individual-with 36 adult NOK to adults and adolescents who had been involuntarily admitted once or several times. The semi-structured interview guide included questions on experiences with and views (...) on involvement during serious mental illness and coercion.ResultsMost of the NOK were heavily involved in the patient’s life and illness. Their conceptions of involvement during mental illness and coercion, included many important aspects adding to the traditional focus on substitute decision-making. The overall impression was, with a few exceptions, that the NOK had experienced lack of involvement or had negative experiences as NOK in their encounters with the health services. Not being seen and acknowledged as important caregivers and co sufferers were experienced as offensive and could add to their feelings of guilt. Lack of involvement had as a consequence that vital patient information which the NOK possessed was not shared with the patient’s therapists.ConclusionsDespite public initiatives to improve the involvement of NOK, the NOK in our study felt neglected, unappreciated and dismissed. The paper discusses possible reasons for the gap between public policies and practice which deserve more attention: 1. A strong and not always correct focus on legal matters. 2. Little emphasis on the role of NOK in professional ethics. 3. The organisation of health services and resource constraints. 4. A conservative culture regarding the role of next of kin in mental health care. Acknowledging these reasons may be helpful to understand deficient involvement of the NOK in voluntary mental health services. (shrink)
Many of the elderly in nursing homes are very ill and have a reduced quality of life. Life expectancy is often hard to predict. Decisions about life-prolonging treatment should be based on a professional assessment of the patient’s best interest, assessment of capacity to consent, and on the patient’s own wishes. The purpose of this study was to investigate and compare how these types of decisions were made in nursing homes and in hospital wards. Using a questionnaire, we studied the (...) decision-making process for 299 nursing home patients who were treated for dehydration using intravenous fluids, or for bacterial infections using intravenous antibiotics. We compared the 215 patients treated in nursing homes to the 84 nursing home patients treated in the hospital. The patients’ capacity to consent was considered prior to treatment in 197 of the patients treated in nursing homes and 56 of the patients treated in hospitals. The answers indicate that capacity to consent can be difficult to assess. Patients that were considered capable to consent, were more often involved in the decision-making in nursing homes than in hospital. Next of kin and other health personnel were also more rarely involved when the nursing home patient was treated in hospital. Whether advance care planning had been carried out, was more often unknown in the hospital. Hospital doctors expressed more doubt about the decision to admit the patient to the hospital than about the treatment itself. This study indicates a potential for improvement in decision-making processes in general, and in particular when nursing home patients are treated in a hospital ward. The findings corroborate that nursing home patients should be treated locally if adequate health care and treatment is available. The communication between the different levels of health care when hospitalization is necessary, must be better. ClinicalTrials. gov NCT01023763 [The registration was delayed one month after study onset due to practical reasons]. (shrink)