Ethics Consultation at a Large Urban Public Teaching Hospital

Tapper, Elliot B.; Vercler, Christian J.; Cruze, Deborah; Sexson, William
May 2010
Mayo Clinic Proceedings;May2010, Vol. 85 Issue 5, p433
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVES: To describe the population served and issues encountered by Hospital Ethics Committee consultation, to describe the incidence of consultation per hospital admission, and to describe the resource utilization per consult. PATIENTS AND METHODS: This is a retrospective review of all ethics consults at a large urban teaching hospital and level one trauma center in a metropolitan area from January 1, 2004, through December 31, 2006. The data points analyzed were patient demographics, time spent by consultants (resource utilization), and the choice to pursue a full consult, which differs from a brief consult by the number of ethics consultants Involved and the formality of the deliberative process. RESULTS: A total of 285 consults were conducted or 0.16% (95% confidence interval, 0.14%-0.18%) of all hospital admissions. The highest Incidence was 0.88% (95% confidence Interval, 0.59%-1.3%) for the trauma intensive care unit. The average age of patients consulted on was 51 years, and 54% were in the Intensive care unit. Of the consults, 90% were brief, and 52% were requested by house staff. Consultants logged 60,368 minutes, 38% of which were devoted to full consults (10% of total). Consults in obstetrics, general medicine, and surgery were the most time-consuming. Pregnancy and human immunodeficiency virus were more prevalent in full consults. The "classic" ethics cases of confidentiality (5%), patients requesting futile treatment (5%), brain death (4%), error disclosure (1%), and organ-donor rights (0.3%) were marginal in our series. CONCLUSION: Little data exist on the practice of ethics consultation services. To our knowledge, this series represents the largest to date. Specific issues, patient characteristics, and hospital services were more prevalent in the most time-consuming consults. These data can be used to target the education of residents and Inform hospital quality Initiatives.


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