The role of patients in Clinical Ethics Support: A snapshot of practices and attitudes in the United Kingdom

30 January 2015

Clinical ethics committees (CECs) in the United Kingdom (UK) have developed significantly over the past 15 years. The issue of access to and participation in clinical ethics consultation by patients and family members has, however, gone largely unrecognized. There are various dimensions to this kind of contact, including patient notification, consent and participation. This study reports the first specific investigation of patient contact with UK CECs. A questionnaire study was carried out with representatives from UK CECs. Results suggest that patient participation in clinical ethics consultation is low and unlikely to change significantly in the near future. Attitudes towards patients having a role in clinical ethics consultation are mixed, with a variety of reasons put forward both for and against patient participation. These results are discussed in the light of common themes in the literature and the practical and political context of clinical ethics support in the UK.