This issue's "Legal Briefing" column covers recent legal developments involving institutional healthcare ethics committees. This topic has been the subject of recent articles in JCE. Healthcare ethics committees have also recently been the subject of significant public policy attention. Disturbingly, Bobby Schindler and others have described ethics committees as "death panels." But most of the recent attention has been positive. Over the past several months, legislatures and courts have expanded the use of ethics committees and clarified their roles concerning both end-of-life treatment and other issues. These developments are usefully grouped into the following eight categories: 1. Existence and availability. 2. Membership and composition. 3. Operating procedures. 4. Advisory roles. 5. Decision-making and gate-keeping roles. 6. Confidentiality. 7. Immunity. 8. Litigation and court cases.