Regulation of healthcare ethics committees in Europe

Med Health Care Philos. 2007 Dec;10(4):461-75. doi: 10.1007/s11019-007-9054-6. Epub 2007 May 23.


In this article, the question is discussed if and how Healthcare Ethics Committees (HECs) should be regulated. The paper consists of two parts. First, authors from eight EC member countries describe the status quo in their respective countries, and give reasons as to the form of regulation they consider most adequate. In the second part, the country reports are analysed. It is suggested that regulation of HECs should be central and weak. Central regulation is argued to be apt to improve HECs' accountability, relevance and comparability. To facilitate biomedical citizenship and ethical reflection, regulation should at the same time be weak rather than strict. Independence of HECs to deliberate about ethical questions, and to give solicited and unsolicited advice, should be supported and only interfered with by way of exception. One exception is when circumstances become temporary adversarial to ethical deliberation in healthcare institutions. In view of European unification, steps should be taken to develop consistent policies for both Eastern and Western European countries.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics Committees / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • European Union
  • Humans
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Policy Making