The purpose of this study was to assess the presence of ethics committees in rural critical access hospitals across the United States. Several studies have investigated the presence of ethics committees in rural health care facilities. The limitation of these studies is in the definition of ‘rural hospital’ and a regional or state focus. These limitations have created large variations in the study findings. In this nation-wide study we used the criteria of a critical access hospital (CAH), as defined by (...) the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex Program, 2007), to bring consistency and clarity to the assessment of the presence of ethics committees in rural hospitals. The Flex Monitoring Team conducted a national telephone survey of 381 CAH administrators throughout the United States. The survey covered a wide variety of questions concerning hospitals’ community benefit, impact activities, and whether the hospital had a formally established an ethics committee. About 230 (60%) of the respondents indicated they had a formally established ethics committee or ethics consultation program at their CAH. The prevalence of ethics committees declined as the CAH location became increasingly rural along a rural–urban continuum. Unlike CAHs, all rural Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers have ethics committees. The results of this study provide an understanding of the limited presence of ethics committee in rural America and the need to consider new approaches for providing ethics assistance. A virtual ethics committee network may be the most efficient and effective way of providing rural hospitals access to a knowledgeable ethics committee or consultant. (shrink)
Organizational ethics—defined as the alignment of an institution’s practices with its mission, vision, and values—is a growing field in health care not well characterized in empirical literature. To capture the scope and context of organizational ethics work in United States healthcare institutions, we conducted a nationwide convenience survey of ethicists regarding the scope of organizational ethics work, common challenges faced, and the organizational context in which this work is done. In this article, we report substantial variability in the structure of (...) organizational ethics programs and the settings in which it is conducted. Notable findings included disagreement about the activities that comprise organizational ethics and a lack of common metrics used to assess organizational ethics activities. A frequently cited barrier to full engagement in these activities was poor institution-wide understanding about the role and function of organizational ethics resources. These data suggest a tension in the trajectory of organizational ethics’ professionalization: while some variability is appropriate to the field’s relative youth, inadequate attention to definitions of organizational ethics practice and metrics for success can impede discussions about appropriate institutional support, leadership context, and training for practitioners. (shrink)
The ethical standard for informed consent is fostered within a shared decision-making process. SDM has become a recognized and needed approach in health care decision-making. Based on an ethical foundation, the approach fosters the active engagement of patients, where the clinician presents evidence-based treatment information and options and openly elicits the patient’s values and preferences. The SDM process is affected by the context in which the information exchange occurs. Rural settings are one context that impacts the delivery of health care (...) and SDM. Rural health care is significantly influenced by economic, geographical and social characteristics. Several specific distinctive features influence rural health care decision-making—poverty, access to health care, isolation, over-lapping relationships, and a shared culture. The rural context creates challenges as well as fosters opportunities for the application of SDM as a natural dynamic within the rural provider–patient relationship. To fulfill the ethical requirements of informed consent through SDM, it is necessary to understand its inherent challenges and opportunities. Therefore, rural clinicians and ethicists need to be cognizant of the impact of the rural setting on SDM and use the insights as an opportunity to achieve SDM. (shrink)
The role of power in healthcare can raise many ethical challenges. Power is ownership, whether given, ceded, or taken of another person’s autonomy. When a person has power over someone else, they can control or strongly influence the decision-making freedom of that person. From the principalist perspective1,2 of healthcare ethics, denying a person their freedom to choose should only occur when justifying conditions related to beneficence and nonmaleficence are sufficiently satisfied. In healthcare, it is rare to be able to identify (...) situations where paternalism is justified. However, experience suggests that abusive power in healthcare is used too frequently without justifying criteria. (shrink)
In the United States, physicians are Increasingly functioning In the consultative role. This change in role Is undoubtedly a result of a surge in the numbers of specialists, the relative decreasing number of primary care physicians, and the emergence of tertiary care centers as primary treatment providers. This change In the style of practicing medicine has led to role confusion In attending physician-patient-consultant relationships.