Intended for healthcare professionals


Clinical ethics committees

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 16 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:649

They can change clinical practice but need evaluation

  1. Anne-Marie Slowther, Nuffield Trust research fellow,
  2. Tony Hope, director and reader in medicine (
  1. Oxford Centre for Ethics and Communication in Health Care Practice, University of Oxford, Oxford OX73 7LF

    Research ethics committees, both local and for multicentre research, are now well established in the United Kingdom. Clinical ethics committees, which deal with issues that arise in clinical practice, are a more recent phenomenon. Earlier this year people from 14 clinical ethics committees within the United Kingdom met to compare their experiences—at a time when the pressure for such committees, or other mechanisms for dealing with the ethics of everyday practice, is growing.

    The first clinical ethics committees in the United Kingdom developed for a variety of local reasons. Some were an institutional response to one or two problem cases. Others developed because a few clinicians were particularly concerned with, and interested in, the ethical aspects of clinical practice. Now that medical ethics is part of the core of medical education,1 and with the high profile of medical ethics in the media, clinicians are increasingly aware of the ethical …

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