February 19, 2015/Bioethics/Best Practices

e-Ethics Cleveland Clinic Offers a Multidisciplinary Perspective

Video consults and other advisory services offered


e-Ethics Cleveland Clinic uses videoconferencing and other communication technologies to make the Bioethics Department’s full range of advisory services available to outside healthcare organizations that lack comparable ethics resources. Face-to-face ethics case consultations are available 24/7, along with assistance on ethics education and policy or program development.


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“Professionals across the spectrum of healthcare confront difficult ethical choices and pressures to reach decisions. e-Ethics Cleveland Clinic is available to help them respond to these challenges, whether they involve patient care, research or organizational policy,” explains Anne Lederman Flamm, JD, Director of e-Ethics Cleveland Clinic.

An e-Ethics consultation may help in:

  • Challenging cases: When a patient, family and healthcare provider facing hard choices have reached an impasse
  • Grey areas: When healthcare professionals feel uncertain about their ethical obligations
  • Research ethics: When medical researchers confront ethical challenges in designing or conducting studies
  • Unknown territory: When organizational leaders need guidance on developing ethics policies
  • Educating staff: When organizational resources to train staff on ethics issues or consultation are limited

“We anticipate that e-Ethics Cleveland Clinic clients will include hospitals needing support for their ethics committee or ethics consultation service,” says Ms. Flamm. “But we’re also available for nursing homes, home care agencies, rehab facilities and other organizations that may not have ethics resources at all. They see many of the same social patterns and medical technologies that fuel ethical dilemmas in hospitals.”

In the nearly 30 years since Cleveland Clinic established the Department of Bioethics, its ethicists have consulted on many unusual clinical cases, mirroring the organization’s range of medical expertise and culture of innovation. The department also has consulted on many routine clinical cases, reflecting the inherent complexity of healthcare decision-making.

Its staff currently consults on more than 300 cases each year.

A wealth of disciplines to draw from

Bioethics debates benefi t from multidisciplinary viewpoints, notes Ms. Flamm. “Cleveland Clinic ethicists include scholars of medicine, theology, philosophy, law, education and more,” she says. “They have rich experience serving on hospital ethics committees and institutional review boards.

As academic faculty, they conduct hundreds of educational events each year, within Cleveland Clinic and its Lerner College of Medicine as well as at national and international conferences.”


Eleven members of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Bioethics are available for e-Ethics consultation. Just as they do in internal case consults, e-Ethics consultants collect information from physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, patients, family members and others involved in a case and evaluate what procedural steps, such as team meetings or family conferences, will promote good decision-making.

Secure communication tools allow the consultations — as well as case based education or policy development assistance that also may contain confidential information — to take place remotely via teleconference or videoconference.

“Patients, their families and professional caregivers regularly encounter difficult decisions, whether resources exist to help them or not,” says Ms.Flamm. “We designed e-Ethics to extend the reach of the ethics services we are lucky enough to have at Cleveland Clinic.”

To arrange for an e-Ethics Cleveland Clinic consult or to learn more about our program, please contact Ms. Flamm at 216.444.8720 or visit clevelandclinic.org/bioethics.


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