Editorials

What attributes should clinical ethics committees have?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2946 (Published 14 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2946
  1. Raanan Gillon, emeritus professor of medical ethics
  1. 1Department of Primary Care and Social Medicine, Imperial College London, London W6 8RP
  1. raanan.gillon{at}imperial.ac.uk

    New objectives from the Clinical Ethics Network should be encouraged but not enforced

    Clinical ethics committees are becoming an increasingly familiar aspect of clinical practice in hospitals in the United Kingdom. According to the Clinical Ethics Network website, there are now 66 acute trust clinical ethics committees and a total of 102 member committees or groups.1 Their function is to provide advice from a variety of clinical and non-clinical perspectives about ethical problems that arise in clinical practice.

    On behalf of the Clinical Ethics Network and after extensive consultation with about 700 members of the network, Larcher and colleagues now recommend that core competencies and criteria for such committees should be established and their performance regulated and evaluated in accordance with “principles of ethical governance.”2

    Critics of clinical ethics committees have expressed concerns about their legitimacy; expertise; appropriate function and purpose; and lack of appropriate governance, regulation, and due process. Larcher and colleagues note but decline to respond to these criticisms. Instead they start from the facts that the number of these committees in the UK is increasing and that an investigation by the Royal College of Physicians has recommended that core competencies should be …

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