Ethics Advisory Group
When a patient’s condition is very complicated it might not be clear what the right or best thing to do is. These difficult decisions are sometimes called ethical dilemmas. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals may feel they need some extra help to decide what to do in cases like this. Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, like many other hospitals, has set up a special group to give this help. This includes Forward Thinking Birmingham (FTB), Mental Health Services for children and young adults up to the age of 25.
What is an ethics Advisory group?
Our group is called the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Ethics Advisory Group (BWC EAG). It is made up of doctors, nurses and other staff from our hospital. It also includes some people from outside the hospital who contribute other specialist skills and knowledge to the group.
It is the Staff caring for a patient who decide when to ask for BWC EAG’s help with a difficult decision. The EAG only take referrals from staff.
What does it do?
BWC EAG never makes decisions about the care of any patient. It only offers advice. It gives staff the opportunity to talk things through, and to explore all the different options with other people who are not as closely involved.
The members of the BWC EAG are expected to have the same duty to confidentiality and privacy as other hospital staff. This includes those members who are not employed by the hospital. This means that they will not talk to other people about patients who are discussed in the meeting. In addition, referrals are anonymised as far as is possible.
The Group meets every 6-8 weeks. When advice is required urgently, meetings are arranged within 3 working days.
Your thoughts are important
BWC EAG expects staff asking for their advice to have first discussed care options with their patient (and the patient’s family, if appropriate). Sometimes these discussions may have been taking place for several weeks or months. Staff are explicitly asked to tell the EAG about the views, feelings and beliefs of the patient (and their family, if appropriate). They have a professional duty to do so accurately and fairly.
During the pandemic many difficult decisions have needed to be made to keep patients, staff and the public as safe as possible. The EAG held weekly virtual meetings to support the Trust, its managers and clinicians in making these difficult judgements.