1 November 2018: Bermuda’s healthcare providers will have the opportunity to learn from a medical ethics expert next week. Dr Christy Simpson, head of the Bioethics Department at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine, will return to the island to give a series of talks as part of Bermuda Hospitals Board’s (BHB’s) annual Ethics Awareness Week.
This year, Dr Simpson and the BHB Ethics Committee will focus on the difficult conversations that present a challenge for many healthcare professionals.
Sita Ingram, Ethics Education Committee chair and clinical director of Allied Health Services at BHB, said: “Healthcare providers are here to diagnose and treat illnesses, but it’s also our duty to make sure our patients understand the reality of their diagnosis, and the risks and benefits of choosing one treatment over another. We need to take their values and beliefs into account, along with their loved ones’ wishes.
“These can be very emotional conversations for everyone involved, especially when the prognosis is not good or the treatment journey is likely to be difficult. The situation can be even tougher when patients aren’t able to make decisions for themselves.”
Dr Simpson said: “In the end we need to support patients and their families through the decision-making process and then support their decisions, whether or not the patient chooses the recommended course of treatment.
“There are steps we can take to prepare for these kinds of conversations and to deal with any issues that arise. There are also ethical considerations, along with tools that can help when making a decision is particularly difficult or there are differing views.”
Dr Simpson will lead continuing medical education lectures for local healthcare providers next Monday to Thursday (5-8 November). Details are available on the BHB website at bermudahospitals.bm by clicking on CME Events under Quick Links. Following the lectures, Dr Simpson, the Ethics Committee and BHB staff will participate in two days of workshops.
According to Dr Simpson, one thing everyone can do to make these kinds of situations a little easier is to consider completing an advance directive and choosing a healthcare agent.
“Thinking about what you would want and discussing it with your loved ones ahead of time can ease some of the stress in a very stressful situation,” Dr Simpson said. “In a case where you aren’t able to make your own decisions, an advance directive can take the burden off your loved ones’ shoulders and potentially prevent family turmoil because you’ve made many of the hardest decisions in advance.”
Members of the Ethics Committee will be available in the Acute Care Wing lobby at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) from 12pm to 2pm on Monday 5 November to talk about advance directives, ethical dilemmas, difficult conversations and decision making with members of the public who stop by. The Committee provides medical ethics consultations to healthcare providers, patients and the public by calling 291-HOPE (4673) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethics information, tools and advance directive booklets are available at bermudahospitals.bm by searching ‘ethics’.
The BHB Ethics Committee comprises about 20 members, including clinical, administrative and community representatives. The Committee promotes awareness of ethical concerns at both KEMH and the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, 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.
BHB’s Ethics Committee maintains a close relationship with Dalhousie University’s Department of Bioethics, which provides assistance and training in ethical matters.
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