Anatomy of A Clinical Ethics Consultation
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Theoretical accounts of the nature and purposes of clinical ethics consultation are disappointingly superficial and diffuse. Attempts to illuminate the goals, the forms, the substance, and the criteria for the success of ethics consultations need to focus on detailed reports of cases and the contexts in which they occur. The uncommonly rich description of the consultation surrounding Mrs. Roses plight provides a splendid opportunity to explore such matters. The ethics consultant pursues a number of ventures providing and clarifying information, improving communication, educating and counseling, and being a friend with variable degrees of success. What the ethics consultant can do and how well he can do it are in large part constrained by three features of the hospital context in which this consultation unfolds: pervasive, perhaps ineliminable, uncertainty; communication failures; and firmly entrenched power. A fundamental issue for an ethics consultant is whether structural and institutional constraints should be accepted or challenged. Should an ethics consultant be a peacemaker or a reformer?