Ethics Consultation Program
Helping Patients and Staff Resolve Ethical Dilemmas
WRNMMC strives to maintain the highest ethical standards of medical care while preserving the life and health of patients and the autonomy of both patients and medical service personnel. Rapid advances in medical science constantly raise new ethical issues and conflicts such as:
- Decisions to withhold or withdraw life support
- Provider refusal to render care
- Decisions involving patients of diminished competence
These and other situations often present difficult, confusing, or conflicting issues. The WRNMMC Ethics Committee is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help resolve these issues.
The Decision Process
Many times, patients, families, and staff members are able to informally discuss the implications of various courses of action, resulting in decisions that are acceptable to all. In some cases, family and staff find a benefit from consulting with others who have experience with similar situations. The Ethic’s Committee Consultation Program at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center exists as a resource for patient, family members and hospital staff to assist with communication and decision-making.
Having a loved one in the hospital can lead to very complicated situations that require difficult decisions regarding life and death and quality of life issues. Sometimes the patient may not be able to make his or her wishes known at the time an important decision must be made. Family members then may bear the responsibility for these decisions and feel overwhelmed by both the short and long term consequences of their decisions.
Who Can Request a Consultation?
- Anyone directly involved in the care of a WRNMMC patient
- This includes the patient, his or her family members, attending or consulting physicians, nurses, and other members of the patient's health care team.
What Happens in an Ethics Consultation?
When a consultation is requested, an Ethics Committee member will be available to help identify issues and facilitate discussion among all involved with the patient's care. If a more formal consult is needed, the Ethics Committee will meet and discuss the case.
Committee members represent a number of professional backgrounds and all receive ongoing training in medical ethics issues. All information discussed is held in the strictest confidence. The Committee exists to help clarify issues in order to help patients and their families make good decisions. No one is bound by the discussions or guidance of the Committee.
How do I Reach a Member of the Ethics Committee?
You can reach a member of the Ethics Committee by calling (301) 547-1136.
News and Events: Roundtable Discussions
An ethical case is periodically presented and discussed in-house. Date and time will be announced through staff communications.