Ethics policy review: a case study in quality improvement
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Policy work is often cited as one of the primary functions of Hospital Ethics Committees (HECs), along with consultation and education. Hospital policies can have far reaching effects on a wide array of stakeholders including, care providers, patients, families, the culture of the organisation and the community at large. In comparison with the wealth of information available about the emerging practice of ethics consultation, relatively little attention has been paid to the policy work of HECs. In this paper, we hope to advance the development of best practices in HEC policy work by describing the quality improvement process that we undertook at Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In the first section of the paper we describe the context of our HEC policy work, and the shortcomings of our historical review process. In subsequent sections, we detail the quality improvement project we undertook in 2010, the results of the project and the specific tools we developed to enhance the quality of HEC policy work. Our goal in sharing this organisational case study is to prompt other HECs to publish qualitative descriptions of their policy work, in order to generate a body of knowledge that can inform the development of best practices for ethics policy review.
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