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.