The Role of Ethics Committees in End-of-Life Care

  • Dan R. Thompson

In order to understand the role of the ethics committee in end-of-life (EOL) care, one needs to understand where they came from and what and who they are and are not.1 Ethics committees came about as the result of a history of scarce resources such as transplants and dialysis, suggestions or mandates from the court, such as in the Quinlan case, state or national regulations, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). The President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine also recommended the formation of Ethics Committees.2 Outside of the United States, they may have very different history and responsibilities and may have, as they do in the United States, very different capabilities and responsibilities. They may serve many purposes. It is important to understand what they are not. They are not the medical morals committee, the institutional review board that reviews research, or the “Baby Doe” committee (the committee that makes decisions about impaired infants).


Conflict Resolution Ethic Consultation Ethic Consultant Ethic Consultation Service United Hospital Fund 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Thompson DR, Kummer HB, eds. Critical care ethics: a practice guide from the ACCM ethics committee. Des Plaines, IL: Society of Critical Care Medicine; 2005.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jonsen AR, Siegler M, Winslade WJ. Clinical ethics — a practical approach to ethical decisions in clinical medicine. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing; 2002.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kelly DF. Critical care ethics: treatment decisions in American hospitals. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward; 1991:156.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Ethics Committee of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. Consensus statement of the SCCM Ethics Committee regarding futile and other possible inadvisable treatments. Crit Care Med 1997;25:887–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mackler A, ed. Introduction to Jewish and Catholic bioethics. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kelly DF. Contemporary Catholic health care ethics. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Grisso T, Appelbaum PS. Assessing competence to consent to treatment: a guide for physicians and other health professionals. New York: Oxford University Press; 1996.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Berg JW, Appelbaum PS, Lidz CW, Parker LS. Informed consent, legal theory and clinical practice. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Beauchamp T, Childress J. Principles of biomedical ethics. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dubler NN, Liebman CB. Bioethics mediation: a guide to shaping shared solutions. New York: United Hospital Fund of New York; 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan R. Thompson
    • 1
  1. 1.Associate Professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology, Alden March Bioethics Institute, Albany Medical CollegeAlbanyUSA

Personalised recommendations