Information for UNC Patients and Families
Health care can be complicated in many ways. The prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of any illness may raise ethical concerns for the patient, the family, or for members of the health care team. These concerns vary, but they often focus on who should make decisions, when they should be made, or about how to decide when options seem complex or limited. Decisions and care at the end of life, and when treatment is either requested or refused, often bring up ethical concerns. While discussions between the patient and health care team can often resolve these issues, ethics consultation is also available to help patients and members of their care team identify and evaluate existing options.
The director of the consult service works with a team of experienced Hospital Ethics Committee (HEC) members who volunteer their time to help patients, family, and staff resolve ethical issues related to patient care. This is called the "ethics consult service." When a consult is requested, a team member contacts the person who requested the consult to discuss the concern or need. This consultant will also talk with members of the care team and with the patient (or family representative), as needed, to fully explore the issue and to offer recommendations. Sometimes this consultation process will involve other hospital services, or joint meetings with the patient and members of the health care team. When the ethics consultation has concluded, the patient and/or health care team may use our recommendations in the ways that they think best meet the patient’s needs and respects his or her preferences for medical care.
The clinical ethics consultation service is available to any patient or family member who wishes to request an ethics consult. This service is free and available on business days (Monday through Friday).
You may leave a message on our ethics line at any time, at (919) 843-1470. Because we are a volunteer service, we cannot promise an immediate response to an emergency request. However, we will try to contact you before the end of the next business day.