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Frequently Asked Questions

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1. What is an Ethics Consultation?

An ethics consult provides information, education and perhaps another perspective about the ethical considerations related to a health care situation or decision.

For example, an ethics consult might be helpful when there is a question about:

  • who should make the final decision about what is the best medical treatment
  • treatment recommendations that don't seem right
  • starting and stopping life support equipment
  • a Do-Not-Resuscitate order (DNR)
  • refusal of treatment
  • Living Wills and Health Care Proxies
  • ethical disputes about organ transplantation

If an ethics consult is requested, one or more members of the Ethics Consultation Service will review the case and discuss the issues with the concerned patients, families, and/or staff. If indicated, the consultant will place a note in the medical record.

2. Who may request a consult?

Anyone involved in an ethical issue arising out of patient care may ask for a consult. This includes physicians, nurses, other hospital staff, residents, students, families and patients.

3. Who provides the Ethics Consult?

A group of Center faculty, all trained in bioethics, provides consults. We have available to us the expertise of other members from the Ethics Committee and the Hospital attorneys. The entire consult team reviews every case in its monthly meeting.

4. How do I request an Ethics Consultation?

Patients may request a consult by contacting their doctor, a nurse or social worker, or by telephoning the hospital operator at 315.464.5540. Hospital staff should contact the operator directly. When the request is received, a member of the Ethics Consultation Service will contact you; we try to provide input within 24 hours and if necessary, sooner. Ethics consultations are available 7 days a week. The Consultation Service is directed by Dr. Tom Curran, who can be reached through the hospital operator or through his office during business hours at 315.420.0612.

5. Does the Hospital's Ethics Committee decide what should be done?

No, the Hospital's Ethics Committee does not decide for you or direct medical care. A consult can, however, help everyone involved to better understand ethical issues and questions and to reach consensus on the best course of action. We may provide you with hospital policies or journal articles that shed light on the situation. We often help people think through the consequences of the possible choices.

6. Is an Ethics Consultation required before life support or other treatment is stopped?

No, but can be helpful in understanding all the possible outcomes of a decision.