Views regarding the training of ethics consultants: A survey of physicians caring for patients in ICU

Eric Chwang, David C. Landy, Richard R. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the expansion of ethics consultation services, questions remain about the aims of clinical ethics consultation, its methods and the expertise of those who provide such services. Objective: To describe physicians' expectations regarding the training and skills necessary for ethics consultants to contribute effectively to the care of patients in intensive care unit (ICU). Design: Mailed survey. Participants: Physicians responsible for the care of at least 10 patients in ICU over a 6-month period at a 921-bed private teaching hospital with an established ethics consultation service. 69 of 92 (75%) eligible physicians responded. Measurements: Importance of specialised knowledge and skills for ethics consultants contributing to the care of patients in ICU; need for advanced disciplinary training; expectations regarding formal-training programmes for ethics consultants. Results: Expertise in ethics was described most often as important for ethics consultants taking part in the care of patients in ICU, compared with expertise in law (p<0.03), religious traditions (p<0.001), medicine (p<0.001) and conflict-mediation techniques (p<0.001). When asked about the formal training consultants should possess, however, physicians involved in the care of patients in ICU most often identified advanced medical training as important. Conclusions: Although many physicians caring for patients in ICU believe ethics consultants must possess non-medical expertise in ethics and law if they are to contribute effectively to patient care, these physicians place a very high value on medical training as well, suggesting a "medicine plus one" view of the training of an ideal ethics consultant. As ethics consultation services expand, clear expectations regarding the training of ethics consultants should be established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-324
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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