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Ethics Consultation Service

At UC San Diego Health, we believe patients should participate fully in their medical care decisions. Our doctors and nurses make sure that patients and families understand their treatment choices and possible outcomes.

You have a right to accept or refuse treatment options and to get support in carrying out these decisions. When a patient or family member faces a challenging decision, an ethics consultation can be helpful. These dilemmas can include:

  • Whether to continue or stop life-prolonging treatments
  • When tests or treatments are being done but the patient does not seem to understand why, or does not necessarily agree with what is being done
  • Who should make health care decisions when patients are unable to communicate or decide for themselves
  • When a patient refuses treatment that is medically beneficial

An ethics consultation is led by a group of medical professionals. We help health care providers, patients and their loved ones identify and resolve ethical conflicts or uncertainties when making difficult medical decisions. Each consultant is trained in understanding the needs of diverse populations.

How to Request an Ethics Consultation

Anyone involved in a patient's care may request a consult, including the patient or the person making decisions on their behalf. This service is free of charge.

Talk with your nurses and doctors about your concerns. After speaking with them, if you decide a consultation might be helpful, ask your care provider to contact the ethics consultant on your behalf.

What Happens Next?

After meeting with you and reviewing your case, the ethics consultant will identify the ethical issues involved in your care and any sources of conflict. If needed, the consultant may organize a meeting of all involved parties to try to resolve any conflicts.

If the best course of action cannot be agreed on, they may call a special meeting of the entire Ethics Committee — which oversees the Ethics Consultation Service — to review your case and give recommendations.

This process is confidential. A summary of all discussions and recommendations (which are not binding), will be included in the patient's chart.