Clinicians' evaluation of clinical ethics consultations in Norway: a qualitative study

Med Health Care Philos. 2008 Mar;11(1):17-25. doi: 10.1007/s11019-007-9102-2. Epub 2007 Oct 2.


Clinical ethics committees have existed in Norway since 1996. By now all hospital trusts have one. An evaluation of these committees' work was started in 2004. This paper presents results from an interview study of eight clinicians who evaluated six committees' deliberations on 10 clinical cases. The study indicates that the clinicians found the clinical ethics consultations useful and worth while doing. However, a systematic approach to case consultations is vital. Procedures and mandate of the committees should be known to clinicians in advance to ensure that they know what to expect. Equally important is bringing all relevant facts, medical as well as psychosocial, into the discussion. A written report from the deliberation is also important for the committees to be taken seriously by the clinicians. This study indicates that the clinicians want to be included in the deliberation, and not only in the preparation or follow-up. Obstacles for referring a case to the committee are the medical culture's conflict aversion and its anxiety of being judged by outsiders. The committees were described as a court by some of the clinicians. This is a challenge for the committees in their attempt to balance support and critique in their consultation services.

MeSH terms

  • Documentation
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical / ethics*
  • Ethics Consultation
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Humans
  • Norway
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Qualitative Research