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When should I contact the Ethics Consultation Service?

You can contact the Ethics Consultation Service if you are having trouble making a decision or are not sure if the decision you want to make is one that you can live with.

We all have to make tough choices everyday. These can be especially upsetting when they relate to our health, or to the health of a friend or family member. The Ethics Consultation Service can help guide you through the process.


What is a moral issue?

Ethics and morality are two different things. Morality – views about what is right and wrong – may arise from your religious or spiritual beliefs, or from your thoughts about social justice.

Ethics, on the other hand, is the study of ideas about morality. The goal of ethics is to examine moral beliefs to see where they lead us, to ask what problems they create, and what problems they solve.


What is a clinical ethicist?

Clinical ethicists are specially trained in thinking about moral issues in health care. They are able to listen to problems in a non-judgmental way, and can help make complex problems easier to understand. Because they have read widely in the field of medical ethics they will likely have seen cases like yours before. They may even be able to tell you how others have dealt with similar issues.


How does a consultation with an ethicist work?

If you decide to contact the Ethics Consultation Service, a meeting between you (or you and your family) and our clinical ethicist can be arranged. Together you can decide what your next steps might be.

You will never be coerced or discriminated against because of your views. The purpose of this first meeting is to gather enough information about the problem to give proper guidance.


What about confidentiality?

Any discussions that you have with the Ethics Consultation Service will remain confidential, to the extent that the law allows. You can even make an anonymous request by telephone or email if you are unsure whether you would like to proceed.

For more information on The Ottawa Hospital’s Privacy Policy, please visit the Privacy Office Web pages .


If I have an ethics consultation, will I still be allowed to make my up my own mind?

The right to make decisions will always rest with you and those in your circle of care. The Ethics Consultation Service can help by listening, offering guidance, and showing which options are most in keeping with your values and wishes.


Can you give me some examples of ethical issues that I might face in the hospital setting?

Because everybody is so different, it’s hard to know what might cause a particular person to feel moral distress. There are, however, some issues that come up fairly often in the hospital setting. These include the following:

  • End-of-life decision-making
  • Withdrawal of treatment
  • Treatment refusals
  • Decision-making for incapable persons
  • Conflict of interest
  • Problems relating to consent and capacity
  • Issues surrounding research
  • Issues relating to advance directives or power of attorney
  • Fair distribution of scarce resources


Am I required to consult the Ethics Office when making a decision?

It is always up to you to decide whether or not you would like to speak to someone about an ethical problem. You are never required to consult with an ethicist, and always have the right to work through problems or issues on your own.

At the same time, you should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about speaking with a professional ethicist. We all face ethical dilemmas from time-to-time, and it can be a comfort to discuss our concerns with someone; or to ask what research or policies are available for guidance.


Does the ethics department deal with privacy issues as well?

No. The Privacy Office is an entirely separate department. They can help you deal with patient privacy and confidentiality issues.

Last updated on: November 16th, 2016