BHB encourages patients to be more involved in their care

Ethics Awareness Week 2014

Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) turns the spotlight on ethics this week as the organisation’s staff focuses on the rights of patients to make informed decisions about their care.

From 3-8 November medical ethics expert Dr Christy Simpson, head of the Bioethics Department at Dalhousie University in Halifax, will work with staff at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) and the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI). They will focus on healthcare professionals’ duty to ensure patients are fully informed about their conditions and potential treatment options.

These rights are at the core of this year’s Ethics Awareness Week campaign, Informed Consent and Decision-making Capacity: Nothing about me without me. From Monday to Thursday, medical staff and community partners will attend seminars, continuing education sessions and grand rounds. On Friday and Saturday, Dr Simpson will lead a symposium for members of BHB’s Ethics Committee.

The public is invited to visit the lobbies at MWI and the KEMH General Wing throughout the week to learn more.

Ethics Committee Co-chair Dr David Harries said: “We encourage patients and their families to become involved in their care. Ask questions if you are not certain about something. Your healthcare team will be happy to provide further information. If something seems unusual or unclear, you should feel comfortable speaking up.”

Ethics Committee Co-chair Dr Sharon Alikhani added: “Patients have a right to autonomy in making decisions about their care and treatment. As healthcare providers we have to respect this. It’s not our duty to impose our will on patients. Patients have the right to make certain decisions regarding their treatment even if the decision seems to be at odds with standard medical practice or advice.”

Dr Chantelle Simmons, chair of the Ethics Education Subcommittee, concluded: “Ethics is about doing the right things for the right reasons. Informed consent is a priority for BHB. It is the process of ensuring patients and service users have adequate information about the benefits and risks of treatment options so they can make decisions that are consistent with their values and beliefs. Informed consent represents an ongoing agreement to receive treatment and/or undergo procedures after the potential risks, benefits and alternative treatments, as well as the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis, have been fully explained. ”

The BHB Ethics Committee is comprised of about 20 members, including clinical, administrative and community representatives. It offers consultations to patients, families and healthcare professionals when dealing with ethical issues around medical care. Members of the public can contact the Ethics Committee for a consultation by calling 291-HOPE (4673).

BHB’s Ethics Committee promotes awareness of ethical concerns at both hospitals, endorses medical ethics education, provides an ethics consultation service and produces guidelines on prominent issues that can help healthcare professionals consider all aspects of controversial decisions. The Committee also reviews medical research proposals on request, and reviews hospital policies to ensure they are ethically sound.

More than a decade ago, BHB’s Ethics Committee formed a relationship with Dalhousie University’s Department of Bioethics, which continues to provide assistance and training in ethical matters.

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