Ethics Consultation

Health care is complex and the right path is not always clear. This is particularly true when the values or beliefs of the patient, family, or health care team conflict, or when patients cannot make decisions for themselves and it is unclear who can, and should, do it for them. Ethics consultations can help patients, families, and the health care team with challenging situations in which the next right step may not be clear.

Request an ethics consultation

To request an ethics consultation, you can ask a member of the patient’s care team to reach out for you, or you can call the DHMC Operator directly at 603-650-5000 and ask to have the Clinical Ethics Consultant on duty paged.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinical Ethics Committee provides free ethics consultations to hospital and clinic patients, their families, and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) staff. We also provide advice to Ethics Committees of hospitals and clinics within the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System. The committee is made up of trained clinical ethicists and includes doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists from many departments at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), and community members.

The Ethics Consultation service helps patients, families and care providers understand the range of reasonable options open to them; the consultation service does not make medical or patient care decisions.

Sometimes we can help with a simple phone call. In other cases, more formal involvement may be necessary.

We provide a range of services, including:

  • Consultants review medical records and interview the patient, physicians, nurses, staff, family members, surrogate decision makers, and other relevant parties.
  • We analyze the ethical issues and suggest a means to resolve them.
  • The primary consultant shares his or her opinion and recommendations with the health care team, patient and family and records it in the medical record.
  • The most challenging cases may be presented (without names or identifying details) to the full Clinical Ethics Committee to obtain broader consensus.
  • Ethicists follow-up as needed or requested.

Ethics consultations are not appropriate for all situations. If you have a question about a financial, legal, quality of care or other issue, ask to be put in touch with the D-H Office of Patient Relations by calling 650-5000.

Ethics consultations are available from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday excluding holidays. Calls received after hours and on weekends will be directed to the Ethics Consultant on-call the next available business day.