A Qualitative Exploration of a Clinical Ethicist's Role and Contributions During Family Meetings

HEC Forum. 2016 Dec;28(4):283-299. doi: 10.1007/s10730-015-9300-x.


Despite the interpersonal nature of family meetings and the frequency in which they occur, the clinical ethics literature is devoid of any rich descriptions of what clinical ethicists should actually be doing during family meetings. Here, we propose a framework for describing and understanding "transitioning" facilitation skills based on a retrospective review of our internal documentation of 100 consecutive cases (June 01, 2013-December 31, 2014) wherein a clinical ethicist facilitated at least one family meeting. The internal documents were analyzed using qualitative methodologies, i.e., "codes", to identify emergent themes. We identified four different transitioning strategies clinical ethicists use to reach a meaningful resolution. These transitioning strategies serve as a jumping-off point for additional analyses, future research, evaluating clinical ethics consultation, and overall performance improvement of a consultation service.

Keywords: Clinical ethics consultation; Communication; Decision-making; Facilitation; Family meetings.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Decision Making
  • Documentation / standards
  • Ethicists*
  • Ethics Consultation / standards
  • Family / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Professional Role / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Retrospective Studies