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Integrating ethics

Integrating ethics

Monday, January 5, 2004

Hospital news

For more information, contact: Larry Blanc

"Doing the right thing for the right reasons is what it's all about when considering what it means to live out ethics in the workplace," said Carl Middleton, Vice President of Theology and Ethics for St. Anthony Hospital's parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives. A focus group representing the key leadership, physicians, and board of trustees of the hospital was inspired by this message at a recent meeting that focused on ethics development planning. Middleton included in his presentation typical scenarios of ethical issues that healthcare providers may face today.

An ethicist for 30 years, Denver-based Middleton said some local and national ethics issues include: Staff shortages, end of life care, the uninsured, allocating company resources, prescription drug costs, patient education, the economy, cultural issues and perspectives and the trend toward an emergency room becoming a patient's primary provider.

St. Anthony Hospital Vice President of Mission Integration, Susan Hébert, is working closely with Middleton, the hospital administrators and directors, a special ethics committee as well as other staff and community members to develop an ethics plan that will reinforce a standard decision-making process and ensure ethical consistency at all levels of responsibility. Hébert sees the overall goal of this plan to be the building of an ethics infrastructure that addresses clinical, organizational, and social issues in a timely manner and assists senior leadership in aligning the hospital's systems, structures, processes, policies and procedures with business, clinical and social initiatives.

Hébert says that St. Anthony Hospital's ethics plan will reflect those issues identified by its stakeholders. Local issues have been identified by a total of 29 staff and physicians and include the following key areas:

  • Clarification and broadening of the role and function of the hospital's ethics committee
  • Improvement in implementing integrative models of health care reflective of the core Catholic social teaching that emphasizes care for the whole person (mind/body/spirit).

On-going revision of ethical policies and procedures:

  • Teaching and coaching leaders of the organization at all levels in the skills and practice of the process of ethical reflection in appropriate decision-making situations.

In regard to these goals Hébert reflects, "I experience our staff at St. Anthony Hospital as genuinely committed to the principles of ethical discernment and decision-making and eager to continue sharpening their skills in these models of thinking." She said, "In the coming year, education, implementation, and evaluation will represent the core elements of our ethics plan. I look forward with enthusiasm and confidence to playing an effective role in facilitating the further building of our ethical foundations, for it is upon this 'rock' that all components of our organizational vision stand. To be part of such a mission in collaboration with dedicated colleagues is a gift and a blessing for me."