Ethics in practice: background and recommendations for enhanced support


A report of the working party on clinical ethics

This report was published in 2005.

The increasing complexity and therapeutic possibilities of medicine; the changing relationships between physicians, patients and other professionals; the advent of consumerism in the ward and the consulting room; debates about values themselves in a profession that draws its membership from a variety of cultural backgrounds - all these factors are making ethical judgements in medicine harder.

With this increase in complexity comes a need for advice that is reliable, thoughtful and informed, as well as sensitive to local needs and mores.

Ethics in practice: background and recommendations for enhanced support discusses how this advice might be provided, summarising current provision at local and national levels and exploring its shortcomings. Clinical ethics committees - their current status, their strengths and the problems facing them - are discussed in depth, and the results of a survey of specialist registrars illuminate the feelings of the sections of the medical workforce perhaps in most need of support. Finally, the report makes a series of clear recommendations on how the role of clinical ethics committees should be strengthened and clarified, and that the provision of ethics support should be central to the mission of the modern NHS.


  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Ethics advice at the national level
  • Ethics advice at a local level
  • Clinical ethics committees key competencies and characteristics
  • Other forms of ethics support
  • A survey of specialist registrars
  • Conclusions and recommendations
  • Appendices
  • Remit of the Working Party on Clinical Ethics committees
  • Witnesses
  • The British Medical Association Ethics Unit
  • The role of the clinical ethicist: an example

The report can be downloaded as a pdf.

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