Association calls for new criteria to evaluate clinical ethicists

Clinical ethicists, who are responsible for mediating ethical disputes about end-of-life care and other major medical decisions among patients, clinicians and families, play a vital role in healthcare but require no educational qualifications to conduct these consultations. 

Therefore, the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) has introduced a new model for assessing and improving ethicists' quality, according to an article in the Hastings Center Report.

The clinical ethics field must assess credentials and competence, the ASBH task forces writes, because, no entrance exam or educational qualifications are required to conduct clinical ethics consultations. "This status quo is no longer acceptable," the article states.

The ASBH task force's method involves a two-step process. First, a candidate for a clinical ethicist position must submit a portfolio to the ASBH that includes his or her resume, background in ethics consultation, a summary of principles and beliefs regarding clinical ethics, letters of evaluation and discussions of individual cases.This information will demonstrate the candidate's competence, experience, ability to work independently and "provide evidence from a candidate that he or she is able to engage in what has been described as an 'entrustable' professional activity," the article states.

The second step is an oral examination based on the contents of the candidate portfolio, with emphasis on the case discussions. This exam also will test the candidate's practical ability because the setting simulates many features of ethics consultations. "For instance, the candidate will meet the examiners for the first time and communicate with them under stressful circumstances," the authors write. "Basic poise, self-presentation, and verbal abilities will be in evidence."

Patient input into major decisions, especially those with ethical implications, has long been a loaded topic. An April study found patients were far more likely to discuss their end-of-life wishes with a family member than with a clinician, and often received more aggressive treatment than they wanted, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the article

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