Committees: A Resource for Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Hospices
By the Florida Bioethics Network
Many times over the years, I have been asked for advice by health care providers with inquiries beginning with the phrase, "Ethically speaking, can I be sued if ...?" Neither health care professionals nor members of the public who may become patients or patients' family members understand very clearly the relationship between ethics and law in the health care delivery context. While bioethics and health law are by no means synonymous, they are, in a number of respects, inextricably intertwined.
This new, updated publication is a fine example of the interrelationship of law and ethics regarding patient care. Although the stated "goal of this document ... is to offer practical advice to organizations, institutions, and especially individuals who seek to address bioethical issues in health care by establishing or serving on healthcare ethics committees," over half of the document's pages can be characterized as dealing with explicitly legal content.
Section I, which focuses on Florida but much of which could also apply elsewhere, consists of the text of 31 specific recommendations for healthcare ethics committees (HECs), plus commentary discussing those recommendations. These cogent recommendations are presented at both a conceptual and detailed level useful for both experienced and newer HECs. Of particular interest to Journal readers will be the discussion of the important, but ideally restrained, role of institutional counsel and legal risk managers in the operation of HECs.
Section II consists of a substantial exposition of relevant Florida law on healthcare decision making, with emphasis on end-of-life scenarios, prepared...