For Patients and Visitors

Ethics Committee

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is committed to providing the best possible care. All members of the healthcare team strive to promote healing and relieve the suffering of every patient. Our goal is to support children and families in every way possible.

Sometimes you and the healthcare team must make very difficult decisions about your child's treatment plan. You may need to make a decision that involves your personal or spiritual beliefs. These decisions, called "ethical dilemmas", can be stressful, frightening and confusing. When faced with an ethical dilemma, a person must make moral choices and think about how to act. A person's beliefs and values about life, health, suffering and death help to make these choices. It is not always easy to choose what is best for your child because there are not any right or wrong choices, only what would be the most helpful and healing direction for their care.

When you face an ethical dilemma concerning your child's care, our staff can help. The Ethics Committee, a group of caring, concerned people dedicated to children's health, is available to support you in every way possible as you make important decisions about your child's treatment. Ethics Committee members include doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, nutritionists, pharmacists and parents of Children's Hospital patients. Members have a broad knowledge of ethics and have extensive experience helping families make difficult decisions. The Committee members keep all information about your child's care private.

To contact the Ethics Committee, call 215-590-1000 and ask the operator to contact the Ethics Committee member on call.

How Can We Help You?

What are some common ethical questions?

Together, you and the healthcare team make decisions for your child. Sometimes, however, ethical dilemmas make the decision process more difficult. Some examples include:

If I am facing a difficult decision about my child's healthcare, who is available to help me at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia?

Your healthcare team is the first place to seek help. Feel free to discuss your questions with your child's doctors and nurses. They know your child's healthcare needs best. You can also share your concerns with a Hospital social worker. You may also ask any member of the healthcare team to set up a family meeting so you can discuss your issues.

Our Chaplaincy staff provides care and spiritual counseling for families of all faiths. They can also connect you with clergy from your own faith. You may call the Chaplaincy Service at 215-590-1137. During evenings, nights and weekends, ask the operator to page the chaplain on call at pager number 10743. Someone is available 24 hours a day.

Many concerns can be resolved as the family and the healthcare team work together. However, sometimes it may be helpful to discuss your ethical questions with another group of professionals. The Ethics Committee is available for that purpose.

Who may request an Ethics Committee consultation?

The patient, the immediate family or a member of the healthcare team may request a consultation with the Ethics Committee.

How can I request an Ethics Committee consultation?

Talk with any member of your child's healthcare team. Discuss your questions and concerns so that they can be shared with the committee. To contact the Ethics Committee directly, dial 215-590-1000 and ask the operator to contact the Ethics Committee member on call. If you think a consultation would be helpful, the Ethics Committee member will arrange one for you.

What happens after I request the consultation with the Ethics Committee?

A member of the Ethics Committee will gather information to understand the ethical issues you are facing. He or she will talk with you and your healthcare team. The Ethics Committee will organize a meeting with your child's doctors and nurses to discuss your concerns and questions. You are welcome and encouraged to attend this meeting, but if you do not feel comfortable, you are not required to do so. In the meeting, concerns and questions are shared. Ethics Committee members are dedicated to helping you and the healthcare team understand each other's concerns and identify options and possible solutions.

The final responsibility for decisions about your child's care belongs to you and the healthcare team. The Ethics Committee offers an opportunity to discuss the difficult decisions that you must make about your child's treatment. After an Ethics Committee consultation, you and the healthcare team continue to work together to care for your child. The Ethics Committee will be available for follow-up as needed.

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