Focus on Ethics as Bermuda Hospitals Board Officially Introduces Committee Team Will Examine Moral, Ethical and Legal Issues in Healthcare

In response to the increasing call for healthcare professionals to examine the ethics that lie behind treatment decisions, the Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) today officially introduced its Ethics Committee. The objective of the committee is to promote awareness of ethical issues at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) and St. Brendan’s Hospital, endorse medical ethics education, develop an ethics consultation service and produce guidelines on prominent issues that can help healthcare professionals consider all aspects of controversial decisions.

The Ethics Committee is co-chaired by Dr. Elaine Campbell and Dr. Roslyn Bascombe-Adams. Its membership comprises physicians and nurses from both hospitals, as well as representatives from the union, clergy, patient, community services, social work, dietician, hospice and extended care-unit communities. The committee has been in existence for two years, but has waited to receive more formal training before introducing itself to the hospital community. The Dalhousie University Bioethics Department is an official partner of the BHB Ethics committee.

“As a result of rapid advances in technology and constant new treatment options, we are faced with decisions that may pose ethical dilemmas for patients, families and healthcare professionals,” said Dr. Elaine Campbell, co-chair of the Ethics Committee. “This is a reality for every hospital and healthcare organization in the world.”

“The role of our committee is to weigh the facts, protect patients’ rights, guide BHB staff action where needed and provide medico-legal support where indicated,” added Dr. Roslyn Bascombe-Adams, co-chair of the Ethics Committee.

To mark its official rollout to the hospital and community, the Ethics Committee is hosting three sessions for invited staff and partners during the week of June 28th. The committee is also holding a symposium in early July targeted to its members entitled “Ethics Consultations – the Process” that will be conducted by representatives from the Dalhousie University Bioethics Department. Ethics consultations are advisory processes that assist patients, families and healthcare providers who are faced with complex decisions. The general public will be invited to open sessions over the next few months.

Over the past two years, the Ethics Committee has worked individually and collaboratively on several hospital policies and guidelines, including those for Advance Directives and Informed Consent. The committee also reviews medical research proposals on request. All activities are carried out under the committee’s motto “Sharing Hope, Seeing Reason”.

Ethical Challenges in Healthcare
While the rapid advances made in medicine and technology during the second half of the twentieth century have improved many people’s lives and increased average life spans, they also raise fundamental questions about society’s moral, ethical and legal codes. These topics are examined throughout the world by many groups at the hospital and university levels, and are discussed in many other forums. Prominent issues that have received global attention include genetic engineering, reproductive rights, stem cell research and euthanasia.

“The Bermuda Hospitals Board is pleased to officially introduce our ethics committee. It will only continue to play a greater role in our hospital and in our community as its members become trained in ethics consultations,” said Joan Dillas-Wright, Chief Executive Officer of the Bermuda Hospitals Board. “The BHB, through the ethics committee, is committed to working with our staff, patients and their loved ones as we are faced with complex issues that require a new level of knowledge and understanding.”

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