Ethics Consult Service
Making medical decisions is not easy. Medical situations are complex and it is often difficult to know the right or the best thing to do is. This is especially true when a patient is too ill to make decisions for him or herself, when it is unclear what the appropriate treatment for the patient is, or when values between the patient, family, or care-team appear to conflict. There are often no ‘right’ answers in these circumstances and these decisions can be the most difficult ones you will ever have to make.
Everything is important to this decision-making process, including a patient’s and family’s personal and religious beliefs. These decisions are hard, plain and simple. They require moral and medical consideration, and as such, must involve input from the physician, the patient as well as the patient’s family. Careful and thoughtful attention by everyone involved is very important in determining the best direction in care.
When a difficult decision arises, the Ethics Consult Service can help. We are a group of doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains. We have broad knowledge of healthcare, spiritual and ethical decision-making, and we are practiced in helping families to reach decisions in these tough circumstances. We are here to help you.
Anyone who has a concern about the care of the patient may request an Ethics Consultation. To contact the Ethics Consult Service, please page Frank Chessa at (207) 741-0510 or email him at Chessf@MMC.org.
What to expect during an Ethics Consultation
A consultation with the Ethics Consult Service offers an opportunity to discuss the difficult decisions surrounding your own or your loved one’s treatment. A member of the Ethics team will talk with you and the healthcare team to gather the information necessary to understand the ethical concerns you are wrestling with. Following this, the Ethics Consultant may also organize a family meeting with your or your loved one’s healthcare team to discuss your questions and concerns and to facilitate dialogue.
Group-discussion styled meetings are often strongly encouraged in these instances, however you do not have to attend such a meeting if do not wish to. In this instance, an ethics team member will meet with the care-team and the patient or family separately.
While Ethics Consult Service members are here to help you and the healthcare team understand each other’s concerns and identify options and possible solutions, the final responsibility for decisions about your loved one’s care belongs to you and the healthcare team. Learn more about who the Ethics Consult Service members are here.
A group decision-making model is often most appropriate in these complex and difficult circumstances; we can help you have your voice heard, and although we may make a recommendation, we serve as a neutral facilitator in the process. Our goal is to help you and/or your family and the healthcare team develop the best care plan for the patient.
Consider the dialogue that took place during the Consultation, and with the healthcare team, work to care for yourself and your loved one. The Ethics Committee will be available for follow-up as needed.
Refer call Patient Relations (207) 662-2983 for complaints about the care team or medical treatment.
Commonly Asked Questions
We are here to help you work through difficult questions, don’t be afraid to ask:
Q: Who gets to make decisions for my loved one?
A: We can help identify who the patient’s appropriate representative is in the instance that a patient is unable to speak for him or herself.
Q: What if I don’t know what the right decision is?
A: We can help work through complex decisions in which there conflicting values and viewpoints.
Q: I don’t agree with the care-team about the appropriate treatment option. What do I do?
A: We can help mediate when you disagree with the healthcare team about the best treatment options for yourself or your loved one.
Q: I don’t agree with my loved one about the appropriate treatment option. What do I do?
A: When you and your loved one disagree about continuing treatment this can be a very difficult situation. However we can help facilitate the necessary dialogue among members of the care-team, you and your loved one, with the hopes of reaching consensus.
Q: How do I decide how much my child is prepared to learn about his or her condition?
A: We can help you navigate the difficult questions and concerns that arise when you have child with a serious condition and you disagree with the physician or other family members about how much the child should be told. We will include your child’s pediatrician, and care providers from psychiatry and palliative care if necessary.
Q: What do I do if a treatment plan conflicts with my cultural or spiritual beliefs?
A: We can help you, your physicians, and an appropriate religious leader if you choose, as you work to find common ground and shape a treatment plan that is suitable to your cultural or spiritual beliefs when medically appropriate.
Q: Is the ethics consultation process documented?
A: A written account of the consultation becomes a part of the patient’s medical record.