Role and function of a paediatric clinical ethics service: experiences at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne

J Paediatr Child Health. 2011 Sep;47(9):632-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2011.02171.x.


This article explores and analyses the role and functions of a clinical ethics service in paediatrics. It is based on the experiences of developing ethics capacity at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, which has evolved since 2002 from a multidisciplinary advisory panel into Australia's first dedicated paediatric Children's Bioethics Centre, which opened in 2008. The ultimate goal is building ethics capacity and literacy across the hospital and continuing to support clinical staff managing patients and their families in ethically problematic cases. This is achieved through current case consultation, education and training, research and institutional policy, and guideline development. The experience of building a clinical ethics service has led to many changes to its structure over the years, with issues like timeliness of meeting, constitution of the group and referral and reporting structures arising as key elements of evolution. Challenges include resourcing and structure, institutional support, and family involvement in ethics consultations.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical* / organization & administration
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / ethics
  • Humans
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Pediatrics / ethics*
  • Program Development
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Victoria