Echo calling narcissus: what exceeds the gaze of clinical ethics consultation?

Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203, USA.
HEC Forum 03/2010; 22(1):73-84. DOI: 10.1007/s10730-010-9123-8
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Guiding our response in this essay is our view that current efforts to demarcate the role of the clinical ethicist risk reducing its complex network of authorizations to sites of power and payment. In turn, the role becomes susceptible to various ideologies-individualisms, proceduralisms, secularisms-that further divide the body from the web of significances that matter to that body, where only she, the patient, is located. The security of policy, standards, and employment will pull against and eventually sever the authorization secured by authentic moral inquiry. Instead of asking "What do I need to know?", the question animating the drive to standardize will be "What is the policy or standard?" The claims of the authors in this issue of HEC Forum confirm these suspicions.

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    ABSTRACT: This article outlines one element of the work carried out by a group of Canadian ethicists [Practicing Healthcare Ethicists Exploring Professionalization (PHEEP)]-to begin the deliberative development of a set of practice standards for the Canadian context. To provide a backdrop, this article considers the nature and purpose of practice standards as they are used by regulated professions and how they relate to other practice-defining texts such as competencies, codes of ethics and statements of scope of practice. A comparative review of current practice-defining documents developed within the field of healthcare ethics practice suggests that practice standards are not yet among them. A review of the practice standards and related texts articulated by various other professions, both regulated and not yet regulated, indicates that while these groups of documents serve to define and clarify various dimensions of practice in individual disciplines, there is no clear standardized approach to the terminology, structure and content across these documents. It is suggested that this variability presents a degree of flexibility that ought to allay many of the anxieties that have been expressed about practice standards in healthcare ethics: practitioners, PHEs, are at liberty to define their practice as they see fit, albeit within reasonable parameters if regulation is sought. A proposal for a draft structure and potential content for Canadian healthcare ethics practice standards is offered.
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