Ethical difficulties in clinical practice : experiences of European doctors
Hurst, S. A., Perrier, A., Pegoraro, R., Reiter-Theil, Stella, Forde, R., Slowther, Anne, Garrett-Mayer, E. and Danis, Marion. (2007) Ethical difficulties in clinical practice : experiences of European doctors. Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol.33 (No.1). pp. 51-57. ISSN 0306-6800
WRAP_Slowther_Ethical_Difficulties.pdf - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jme.2005.014266
Background: Ethics support services are growing in Europe to help doctors in dealing with ethical difficulties.
Currently, insufficient attention has been focused on the experiences of doctors who have faced ethical
difficulties in these countries to provide an evidence base for the development of these services.
Methods: A survey instrument was adapted to explore the types of ethical dilemma faced by European
doctors, how they ranked the difficulty of these dilemmas, their satisfaction with the resolution of a recent
ethically difficult case and the types of help they would consider useful. The questionnaire was translated and
given to general internists in Norway, Switzerland, Italy and the UK.
Results: Survey respondents (n = 656, response rate 43%) ranged in age from 28 to 82 years, and averaged
25 years in practice. Only a minority (17.6%) reported having access to ethics consultation in individual
cases. The ethical difficulties most often reported as being encountered were uncertain or impaired decisionmaking
capacity (94.8%), disagreement among caregivers (81.2%) and limitation of treatment at the end of
life (79.3%). The frequency of most ethical difficulties varied among countries, as did the type of issue
considered most difficult. The types of help most often identified as potentially useful were professional
reassurance about the decision being correct (47.5%), someone capable of providing specific advice
(41.1%), help in weighing outcomes (36%) and clarification of the issues (35.9%). Few of the types of help
expected to be useful varied among countries.
Conclusion: Cultural differences may indeed influence how doctors perceive ethical difficulties. The type of
help needed, however, did not vary markedly. The general structure of ethics support services would not have
to be radically altered to suit cultural variations among the surveyed countries.
|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Subjects:||R Medicine > R Medicine (General)|
|Divisions:||Faculty of Medicine > Warwick Medical School|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Medical ethics -- Europe, Physicians -- Europe|
|Journal or Publication Title:||Journal of Medical Ethics|
|Page Range:||pp. 51-57|
|Access rights to Published version:||Restricted or Subscription Access|
|Funder:||National Institutes of Health (U.S.). Dept. of Clinical Bioethics (NIH), Hôpitaux universitaires de Genève, Oltramare Foundation, Centre lémanique d'éthique|
1 Lo B, Schroeder SA. Frequency of ethical dilemmas in a medical inpatient service.
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