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National Center for Ethics in Health Care


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National Ethics Consultation Service

The National Center for Ethics in Health Care provides consultation on questions of health care ethics to VHA leaders and facility-based ethics program staff. Veterans, families, VA staff, and involved parties at field facilities should seek consultation from their local VA medical center. Every VA medical center has an ethics consultation service. Your facility’s administration can tell you how to contact your local program.

Through our ethics consultation function, NCEHC promotes ethical health care practices across VHA by providing:

  • assistance with health care ethics problems that cannot be resolved locally
  • practical advice to VHA leaders and ethics programs
  • responses tailored to requesters' needs
  • accurate information about health care ethics standards and VA policy
  • a forum for discussion of health care ethics concerns
  • access to the collective expertise of the NCEHC
  • referral to additional ethics resources

When Is It Appropriate to Request an Ethics Consultation?

In VA, an ethics consultation request to NCEHC is appropriate when there is a lack of clarity about an ethics policy or concept, or there is uncertainty surrounding an ethics-related situation or decision to be made.

Examples of requests from local VA ethics programs, VISNs, VHA program offices, and other parties include:

  • an ethics analysis of concerns relating to patient care, health care management, or research
  • a review of documents from a health care ethics perspective
  • a clarification of health care ethics policy
  • answers to questions or information about topics in health care ethics
  • a referral to additional ethics resources

What Should I Expect from an Ethics Consultation?

NCEHC receives a wide variety of requests for consultation. Less complex consultation requests can sometimes be addressed by a telephone conversation or e-mail communication. More complex requests may require significant staff time for research, consensus building, deliberation, and writing. Depending on the urgency of the request, the requester will be contacted within 1-2 business days to clarify the request, inform the requester about the consultation process going forward, and establish a plan for next steps.

Who Are NCEHC's Ethics Consultants?

Ethics consultations are provided by staff of NCEHC. Difficult or complex consultation requests may involve several members of Center staff as appropriate, but the Center's ethics consultants are: