The Benefits of Practice Standards and Other Practice-Defining Texts: And Why Healthcare Ethicists Ought to Explore Them
This article outlines one element of the work carried out by a group of Canadian ethicists [Practicing Healthcare Ethicists Exploring Professionalization (PHEEP)]—to begin the deliberative development of a set of practice standards for the Canadian context. To provide a backdrop, this article considers the nature and purpose of practice standards as they are used by regulated professions and how they relate to other practice-defining texts such as competencies, codes of ethics and statements of scope of practice. A comparative review of current practice-defining documents developed within the field of healthcare ethics practice suggests that practice standards are not yet among them. A review of the practice standards and related texts articulated by various other professions, both regulated and not yet regulated, indicates that while these groups of documents serve to define and clarify various dimensions of practice in individual disciplines, there is no clear standardized approach to the terminology, structure and content across these documents. It is suggested that this variability presents a degree of flexibility that ought to allay many of the anxieties that have been expressed about practice standards in healthcare ethics: practitioners, PHEs, are at liberty to define their practice as they see fit, albeit within reasonable parameters if regulation is sought. A proposal for a draft structure and potential content for Canadian healthcare ethics practice standards is offered.
KeywordsClinical ethics Consultation Ethics Practice Professionalization Standards
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