Evaluating clinical ethics support in mental healthcare: a systematic literature review

Nurs Ethics. 2015 Jun;22(4):452-66. doi: 10.1177/0969733014539783. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


A systematic literature review on evaluation of clinical ethics support services in mental healthcare is presented and discussed. The focus was on (a) forms of clinical ethics support services, (b) evaluation of clinical ethics support services, (c) contexts and participants and (d) results. Five studies were included. The ethics support activities described were moral case deliberations and ethics rounds. Different qualitative and quantitative research methods were utilized. The results show that (a) participants felt that they gained an increased insight into moral issues through systematic reflection; (b) there was improved cooperation among multidisciplinary team members; (c) it was uncertain whether clinical ethics support services led to better patient care; (d) the issue of patient and client participation is complex; and (e) the implementation process is challenging. Clinical ethics support services have mainly been studied through the experiences of the participating facilitators and healthcare professionals. Hence, there is limited knowledge of whether and how various types of clinical ethics support services influence the quality of care and how patients and relatives may evaluate clinical ethics support services. Based on the six excluded 'grey zone articles', in which there was an implicit focus on ethics reflection, other ways of working with ethical reflection in practice are discussed. Implementing and evaluating clinical ethics support services as approaches to clinical ethics support that are more integrated into the development of good practice are in focus. In order to meet some of the shortcomings of the field of clinical ethics support services, a research project that aims to strengthen ethics support in the mental health services, including patients' and caregivers' views on ethical challenges, is presented.

Keywords: Clinical ethics support services; ethical challenges; evaluation studies; mental healthcare; systematic literature review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Nursing
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / nursing*
  • Psychiatric Nursing / ethics*