Request for ethics support in healthcare practices. Reasons and characteristics of Ethics Consultation Service users.

Abstract

BACKGROUND Ethical problems in healthcare practices are increasing. Therefore, healthcare professionals encounter difficult ethical problems more frequently in their professional activities. For this reason, in several countries Ethics Consultation Services have been created, and a debate concerning their role and organization model has developed. Despite the great interest of healthcare professionals in ethics support, Ethics Consultation Services are scarcely diffused in Italy. METHODS A survey was conducted to identify the levels of the nurses' experience and knowledge in the field of ethics and to assess their willingness to use a consultation service to approach ethical issues in healthcare. A questionnaire was administered and completed personally by 374 nurses appropriately instructed beforehand on its use. They were recruited from post-basic training courses at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of L'Aquila. RESULTS The willingness to recur to an ethical consultation, indicated by 90.3% of respondents, would confirm the hypothesis that the increasing ethical difficulties encountered in healthcare activities determined a greater interest towards this kind of service. The results of the study underline both the need and expectations the nurses have for ethics consultation and support to face ethical difficulties in patient care, and describe the characteristics of potential users. CONCLUSION In our country the delay in approaching such problems is in contrast with the marked interest the healthcare professionals have for a possible request for support to face ethical problems in patient care. The study shows the respondents' high degree of appreciation of the contents of an ethics consultation activity and, consequently, it is desirable that the creation of an Ethics Consultation Service takes into consideration the indications given by the potential users, in addition to the experiences coming from other countries.

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