Practical guidance for charting ethics consultations

HEC Forum. 2014 Mar;26(1):79-93. doi: 10.1007/s10730-013-9228-y.


It is generally accepted that appropriate documentation of activities and recommendations of ethics consultants in patients' medical records is critical. Despite this acceptance, the bioethics literature is largely devoid of guidance on key elements of an ethics chart note, the degree of specificity that it should contain, and its stylistic tenor. We aim to provide guidance for a variety of persons engaged in clinical ethics consultation: new and seasoned ethics committee members who are new to ethics consultation, students and trainees in clinical ethics, and those who have significant experience with ethics consultation so that they can reflect on their practice. Toward the goal of promoting quality charting practices in ethics consultations, we propose recommendations on a broad array of questions concerning clinical ethics consultation chart notes, including whether and when to write a chart note, and practical considerations for the tenor, purpose, and content of a chart note. Our broader aim is to promote discussion about good charting practices in clinical ethics, with the hope of contributing to clear standards of excellence in clinical ethics consultation.

MeSH terms

  • Documentation / ethics
  • Documentation / standards*
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Medical Records*
  • Referral and Consultation*