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Ethics Committee

Tel:  507-646-1001

The care of patients, especially in the hospital or in end-of-life care settings, can be complex.  Difficult situations are common, and there may be times when dilemmas arise.  A patient’s family may see things differently than the members of the medical team.  Even among members of the same family, there may be conflict about decisions that need to be made for the care of a loved one.  These are circumstances in which the Ethics Committee may be able to help.

What is the Ethics Committee?

The purpose of the Ethics Committee is to support families and healthcare staff in the resolution of ethical issues that may occur in the course of hospitalization or other care provided by Northfield Hospital & Clinics.  The committee provides consultation to the patient, family and health care team on a wide range of problems and decisions that may occur during hospital or other care.

Who are the members of the Ethics Committee?

The members of the Ethics Committee come from a wide variety of health care disciplines within Northfield Hospital & Clinics and the community.  Professionals who work at the hospital, such as doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains, serve with a diverse group of community representatives, including doctors, educators, ethicists, and members of the community.  The doctors and nurses on the committee represent a variety of clinical specialties.

When is an Ethics consultation appropriate?

Sometimes patients, families, and staff have very difficult choices to make.  They may face moral dilemmas and may need to review ethical questions and concerns.  Discussions with the Ethics Committee can be helpful and reassuring when confronting a challenging decision.
Doctors  and families each have the best interests of the patient at heart.  However, sometimes patients or family members may differ with each other or with doctors in how they see and understand the patient’s illness and options for treatment or care.  An Ethics Committee consultation may prove helpful at times of such disagreement.  An independent review of the case focusing on ethical issues can serve to clarify matters for everyone involved.

What does the Ethics Committee do?

The main role of the Ethics Committee is to review specific, individual patient-care situations and dilemmas.  After the review, the Ethics Committee  will   provide an opinion about the situation from an ethical point of view.  The consultation process aims to assist all those involved in having an open discussion about the patient’s care.  The outcome of the consultation is an honest and thoughtful recommendation to the patient, family and medical team.  All members of the health care team, as well as the patient and family, are invited to attend the meeting, if possible.  Decisions resulting from the consultation are advisory and are not institutionally or legally binding. 

Who may request an Ethics consultation?

The Ethics Committee is a resource for patients and their families as well as for doctors, nurses, or other Northfield Hospital & Clinics staff who are concerned about the ethical decision-making process in the care of the patient.

How does one access the Ethics Committee?

Patients, family members or other involved persons, and professional staff all have the right to request an Ethics consultation by contacting the Ethics Intake Coordinator at 507-646-1001.    Be sure to provide a contact phone number and/or email, as well as the name and location of the patient involved.  Once a request is made, the consultation will occur within a few days.  An emergency consultation will take place as soon as possible, within 24 hours.