Hos­pi­tal Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee aims to provide a resource for Onslow Memorial Hospital's staff, patients, and families as they encounter ethical issues that arise in the provision of healthcare.

Medical care can be complex and confusing and can touch on many of our important values and ideals. The Ethics Committee is available to help free of charge when there is an ethical dilemma related to healthcare.

An ethics consultation may help whenever the healthcare team, the patient, or the patient’s family has an unresolved ethical concern. A consultation can offer recommendations that the members of the healthcare team and patient (or patient’s family) may use in their decision-making.

A few examples include:

  • Uncertainty as to who should make health care decisions or how to make those decisions for patients too sick to speak for themselves
  • Conflict between values or religious beliefs and a recommended course of treatment
  • Disagreement over whether starting, continuing, or ending treatment, such as breathing tubes or feeding tubes, is the right thing to do
  • Moral distress about a health care decision
  • A complex medical situation that also raises ethical concerns

Hospital patients, their family members, and any member of the healthcare team may request an ethics consult. There is no charge.

Other hospital staff (not directly involved in patient care) may assist interested patients, family members, or healthcare team members by directing them to the service via the request line (910-577-2320) or this website.

If you think a consultation might be helpful, or just have a question about consultations, feel free to call and ask. It may be helpful to keep in mind that it can take some time (later that day or the next day) for a member of the committee to respond to your request. That means that we cannot typically offer consultations on an emergency basis, such as requests made the day of discharge or an hour before a family meeting. The timing issue often arises because our ethics committee consists of healthcare professionals who volunteer for this service in addition to their full time positions within the institution.

To request an ethics consultation, please call the Ethics Consult Request Line at 910-577-2320 and leave a message, including your name and contact information.

It is helpful, but not required, to include the patient’s name and a brief account of the issue you would like to discuss. It will speed our processes if you will spell your last name and that of the patient. (We cannot respond to requests without the name and contact information for the person requesting the consultation.)

The voice mail box is checked regularly Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The line is not checked evenings, holidays, or weekends. If we do not return your call the same day, we will try to reach you by the end of the next business day.

  • An ethics consultation is treated as a confidential aspect of patient care. When a consult is requested, a coordinator will gather some basic information from you and explain our procedures. Typically, the service will also alert the patient’s attending physician and the nurse manager of a request concerning one of their patients.
  • The consultation could proceed in a variety of ways, depending on the request, the issue and the initial assessment. It is common to include members of the medical team, bedside caregivers and the patient or family. If someone does not want to be included in the process, or wishes to send another person in his/her place, we can typically accommodate these preferences.
  • If appropriate for an ethics consult, recommendations relevant to the ethical issues identified will be provided. The ethics consultation is advisory only. Final decisions are made by the patient, family, and the healthcare team.