What is “Ethics” in Health Care?

Patients, their families and health care providers are, from time to time, faced with difficult choices regarding medical treatments involving moral values, beliefs, traditions and preferences.


Ethics in health care is the rational examination of what constitutes ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ the human, legal and moral rights that we have, and the associated duties and obligations that health care professional have to their patients.


Some examples of ethical dilemmas include:

  • When should life-sustaining treatments like breathing machines or feeding tubes be started, continued or stopped?
  • What should family members and health care professionals do if a patient refuses treatment that promises to be medically helpful? Do patients have a right to make ‘bad’ choices?
  • Who should make health care decisions for patients when they are unable to communicate or decide for themselves? What is the basis for these difficult decisions?
  • Should an "at risk" patient be allowed to go home if they want to? What if harms befell them upon their return home


An Ethics Team is in place to assist patients, families, staff and members of the DRDH care community to address ethical dilemmas and challenges. The Ethics Team offers internal support and collaboration with an ethics consultation to offer support to staff, patients and their families confronted by difficult ethical or moral challenges found in health care. Any member of the medical team, hospital staff, patients, and patient families can make a confidential request for ethics consultation services. Ethics consultations remain confidential unless there is any threat of harm or abuse to a patient, staff or family member. ‘


What is an Ethics Consultation?

Our consultative services are offered in a supportive and advisory manner recognizing that treatment decisions are ultimately the responsibility of the treatment team in collaboration with the capable patient’s wishes and/or the patient’s substitute decision-maker(s). Ethical challenges can be encountered in providing quality in end of life care, substitute decision-making, resolving conflicts, as well as in determining the role of cultural or religious values in patient care decisions.


The Ethics consultation service will accept referrals from physicians, staff, volunteers, families and patients where an ethical issue or dilemma regarding patient care exists.


How are referrals made?

A request for a referral can be made by contacting your physician or nurse. If you need help to decide whether or not an Ethics Consultation would help you, please talk to the Chief Nursing Officer.


What results can be expected?

All consultations are confidential and are bound by the same policies and procedures as other patient and organizational records. The Ethics Team and Consultant role is advisory only.


The final decision about a health related issue lies with the patient (or legal representative) and the doctor involved. Ethics consultation provides a facilitated forum for thoughtful exploration of how to act well and make morally good choices based on beliefs and values about life, health, suffering and death.


The Hospital Ethics Team recommends that all patients and family members review and complete an advance directive. To learn more about advance directives, please speak with your physician or nurse.


Ethical Framework

As ethical situations, challenges and choices constantly arise in health care -- from the bedside to the boardroom, DRDH had adopted an ethics framework to support all members of the health care community provide exceptional service to our patients.


Ethical decisions reflect:

  • Vision and values
  • Provincial and federal legislation
  • Accepted principles of bioethics and business ethics, and professional codes of ethics
  • The trust placed in DRDH by our community
  • The public demand for accountability, privacy, transparency, and service