Hospital ethics committees are In the vanguard of Integrating Bioethics @ Geisinger. Long established committees at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville and at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre are undergoing a process of renewal with the goal of enhancing their value as organizational forces for advancing the ethics quality of patient care. At Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton, Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital in Bloomsburg, and Geisinger Lewistown Hospital, ethics committees have recently been established, or soon will be.
Comprised of physicians, nurses, clinical social workers, respiratory therapists, chaplains and community representatives, these committees meet monthly for the purpose of achieving several ongoing aims. These aims include:
- Educating themselves about fundamental as well as emerging issues in clinical ethics
- Planning and executing ethics educational programs for their colleagues
- Developing and revising policies on, for example, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, determining brain death, medical futility, conscientious objection and other topics
- Critically reviewing as well as providing ethics consultations on an as-needed basis
- Contributing to the design, conduct and evaluation of ethics quality improvement initiatives at their respective hospitals and throughout the clinical enterprise of the Geisinger Health System
Some of the most important work of these committees, however, occurs beyond their monthly meetings as their members go about the performance of their day-to-day duties — as physicians, citizens, nurses, social workers, respiratory therapists or chaplains. That work consists in the efforts of members to serve as ethics resources for their colleagues as well as patients and families — helping to identify and address needs for education or consultation, for policy revisions or development, or for systemic solutions to entrenched problems. In brief, in the midst of often stressful, frenetic activity, the committees and their members act so as to open up and sustain what can best be described as moral space — a place and a time for analyzing, reflecting upon and tackling the ethical challenges inherent in the care of patients.