Bioethics Blogs

The Ethics Liaison Program: Building a Moral Community

Guest Post: Sarah Bates
Article: The Ethics Liaison Program: Building a Moral Community

As challenges to health care delivery increase over time, it is becoming more and more important for hospitals to maintain a strong institution-wide moral culture. But the common model of employing one or a few “ethicists” can lead to the misconception that ethics is the responsibility of those individuals alone, rather than that of all staff throughout the hospital. Meanwhile, staff members who lack dedicated time for ethics-related work, but who are interested in contributing to that work to the extent that their schedules permit, lack a means by which to do so.

The Ethics Liaison Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) helps to address those problems at our institution. The 75-plus Liaisons represent clinical and nonclinical areas throughout BIDMC. They spread awareness of Ethics Programs throughout the medical center, communicate between the three ethicists and colleagues in their own work areas, and take on ethics-related projects connected to their work. By “Ethics Programs,” we mean the three-person Ethics Support Service (who conduct ethics consults) and the Ethics Advisory Committee that oversees them, as well as the Liaison Program itself.

The Liaison Program is a win-win for both the Liaisons and BIDMC Ethics Programs. Liaisons join a supportive community that meets monthly to discuss the ethics consults conducted that month, as well as a related journal article. In addition to those monthly meetings, Liaisons can take advantage of educational opportunities, at BIDMC and beyond: monthly Ethics Case Conferences open to all BIDMC staff; ethics-related events and presentations at affiliated institutions; and an annual three-day bioethics course through the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics.

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.