Ethics Week Focuses on Decisions at the Extremes of Life

Bermuda Hospitals Board´s (BHB) Ethics Committee will be addressing complex questions around the theme of Decision-Making at the Extremes of Life during Ethics Week 2007.

Officially launched today by Acting Minister for Health, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Philip Perinchief, Ethics Week raises awareness regarding complex issues faced by healthcare workers and patients and their families about patient care and what help is available at the hospitals.

Medical technology and treatments today can extend our life. But how are medical decisions made when the patient has Alzheimer’s or is unconscious and leaves no written explanation of his or her wishes? This question and others like it will be addressed during Ethics Awareness Week.

“The Ethics Committee does not make decisions for physicians, patients and family members,” explains Dr. Roslyn Bascombe-Adams, Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee. “We are here to advise and direct, especially in instances when there may be varying opinions and concerns. Anyone who needs our assistance can ring 291-HOPE and leave a message. We monitor this line everyday and address all calls. While it is helpful for us to speak to the caller, even if the message is anonymous we will look into whatever concern has been raised. If it is an emergency, for example, a decision has to be made about a patient in a critical condition, patients or their families can call ext. 1553 and ask for a member of the Ethics Committee to be contacted.”

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.

Members of the public are invited to stop by the lobby at KEMH and MWI to read the displays and learn more. Other events this week also include learning lunches for healthcare professionals and a symposium for committee members, both presented by Drs. Christy Simpson and Jeffrey Kirby, of the Bioethics Department at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The Ethics Committee operates under the BHB Department of Quality and Risk Management. Co-chaired by Dr. Elaine Campbell, Consultant Anesthesiologist and Dr. Roslyn Bascombe-Adams, Deputy Director of Emergency Services and Hyperbaric Medicine. The Committee includes physicians, nurses, dieticians and social workers, well as representatives from trade unions, the clergy, community services, patient advocates and the Ministry of Health.

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