The Accessibility of Inpatient Pediatric Ethics Consultation Services to Patient Caregivers

Hosp Pediatr. 2022 Sep 1;12(9):e291-e294. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2022-006662.


Background: Ethics consultation services (ECS) support clinical decision-making when there are values conflicts. Accessibility to ECS by patients and families is required to benefit from the service. Multiple national guidelines encourage ready availability of ECS to all stakeholders including patients and families.

Methods: All facilities registered with the Children's Hospital Association (n = 190) were contacted using a protocol modeled after an adult ethics consultation practice study. After an online search to identify an ethics contact, calls were made to hospital operators, and each transfer was documented as well as time to ECS contact. If no contact was identified on progression through the call protocol or on completion of the call pathway on 3 occasions each spaced by 1 week, the ECS was labeled "unreached."

Results: Only 36 (19%) ECS contacts were identified via online search with the remainder 154 (81%) requiring phone calls. Fewer than one-quarter of operators (n = 34/154, 22%) could identify a contact name or number for ECS. Thirty ECS (16%) remained unreachable after completion of the call pathway or 3 separate attempts. Successful ECS contact required an average of 2.9 attempts. Maximum call hold duration was 25 minutes. Callback times averaged 5.8 business days after voicemail.

Conclusions: This study revealed limited reachability of ECS. ECS should make their contact information available online and improve information available to operators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Ethics Consultation*
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Inpatients