April 4, 2013

ECH Ethics Committee available to weigh in


“I tell staff, ‘If it doesn’t feel right, make sure the outcomes for the patient are in the best interest.’”


Often, there’s concern about patients who have diminished capacity to participate in decision-making. The committee attempts to provide recommendations for support and counsel for those responsible for that person’s care. 

It is not intended as a legal course of action.

The Ethics Committee meets two or three times a year, though if there is an issue, it will convene as quickly as possible. 

“We try to have a diverse group of community members to get different perspectives,” ECH Director of Facilities and Support Services Matthew Nolan said at the start of a recent meeting.

“Most of us don’t have patient contact.”

The committee is made up of nine members: the hospital’s chief nursing officer, the public-relations director, a clergy person, a physician, an attorney, Office for the Aging and Horace Nye Nursing Home representatives, a case manager and the ECH facilities director. 

Anyone who is close to the patient or the situation is generally excused.

It was emphasized several times during the meeting that the committee is not intended to create policy or deal with complaints but rather to provide guidance in assisting the concerned party in making a decision.


Upon presentation of a case, the group must consider facts, emotion and logic in tackling questions regarding treatment, life support and other socially driven ethical dilemmas. 

Often among the considerations are the societal imbedded ideas that a doctor should do everything possible to keep the patient alive and, at times, the family’s insistence that God will intervene. 

Rarely are finances a prime consideration.

“Often, there’s not a well-defined line between the use of aggressive treatment that’s not warranted — meaning it won’t restore or preserve someone’s health — and one that is warranted,” an ECH statement said.

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