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Centre for Clinical Ethics

What Is Clinical Ethics?

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Ethics is about right and wrong and the reasons that we give for our choices and actions. We explore the question: What ought we to do and why?

Clinical ethics promotes reflective practice and the making of “right” choices and decisions in the delivery of health care.

It is not always clear what the “right” decision is in specific cases.

Different individuals (healthcare providers, patients, family members) will often disagree about what the “right” decision should be.

We consider “should” questions, such as:

  • “Should we get consent for a “No CPR” order?
  • “When should you report a colleague’s error?”
  • “Should we hide medication in a patient’s food?”
  • “When should you follow the advance directive of a patient with anorexia?”
  • “Should those who can pay be able to jump the cue?”

In seeking answers to these questions, clinical ethicists in collaboration with healthcare team members, patients, and family members examine basic ethical principles such as autonomy (the right for individuals to make choices about what happens to them), beneficence (the desire to do good), non-maleficence (the duty to prevent harm), and justice (fairness)