In response to the growing recognition of the prevalence of ethical issues in clinical care, hospitals in Canada began forming ethics committees in the 1980s. Studies showed significant growth in the prevalence of ethics committees over the ensuing decade. Although the limited studies available suggest that ethics committees have become very prevalent in Canadian hospitals, hospital ethics services have evolved in recent years to include a wider range of structures. In some cases, these structures may work in conjunction with an ethics committee, but in other cases they may replace ethics committees. They include on-staff ethicists, external ethics consultants, “hub-and-spokes” structures and regional ethics programs. What is not known, however, is how prevalent these other structures are and whether ethics committees continue to function as the main delivery mechanism for ethics services in Canadian hospitals. This paper reports on the results of a survey of hospitals in Ontario to answer those questions.
Healthcare Quarterly, 20(2) July 2017