Bioethics Blogs

Clinical Ethics Consultant Professionalization: A Response to Dr. Shelton

In
his last AMBI blog
posted on June 18, 2015, Wayne N. Shelton,
PhD, MSW, discussed recent movement toward the professionalization of clinical
ethics consultants. He noted the adoption of a Code of Ethics for Health Care
Ethics Consultants by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH),
which has been praised as important milestone toward the professionalization of
clinical ethics consultants. Moreover, Dr. Shelton listed several challenges
that “professionals” who call themselves “clinical ethics consultants” currently
face, including: “[1]
how
to make sense of the diverse educational backgrounds and training of those who
perform clinical ethics consultations and how far to push such requirements; [2]
the lack of a national body to set requirements that leaves local hospital
leaders with little incentive to pay for highly qualified CECs and view this as
a sound investment; and finally [3], most seriously, the way in which many
problems in patient care are misidentified as clinical ethical problems while
other serious clinical ethical problems may be entirely overlooked or if
recognized, not viewed as requiring the expertise of a CEC.” He concluded his
post with: “These challenges are indications that clinical ethics consultation
will not likely achieve professional status in the healthcare system in the
near future.” Of course, Dr. Shelton is correct in his analysis, but some might
see the challenges he listed as surmountable if those who practiced clinical
ethics consultation were to: (1) establish minimum uniform educational
standards for new clinical ethics consultants; (2) create national
certification and accreditation standards so employers would more fully
understand the nature and value of their work; and (3) provide consultants themselves
and other stakeholders unmistakable guidance on what clearly constitutes the
work of clinical ethics consultants.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.