Ethics Consultation

Sometimes you and the healthcare team must make very difficult decisions about your child's treatment plan, or there may be disagreement among members of the healthcare team, other family members, or your child about the right thing to do. You may need to make a decision that involves your personal values or spiritual beliefs about life, health, suffering or death. These decisions, called "ethical dilemmas," can be stressful, frightening and confusing. In many cases, it's not easy to choose what is best for your child.

When you face an ethical dilemma concerning your child's care, our staff can help. The Ethics Consultation Service is a small team of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) staff who has a broad knowledge of ethics and extensive experience helping families and healthcare teams make difficult decisions. They are available to support you and the healthcare team as you work together to make important decisions about your child's treatment.

Any CHOP patient, parent/guardian or any member of the healthcare team may request an ethics consultation. To request an ethics consultation, call 215-590-1000 and ask the operator to contact the on-call member of the Ethics Consultation Service.

When the Ethics Consultation Service can help

Some types of situations with which the Ethical Consultation Service can help include:

  • You and the healthcare team disagree about the best thing to do for your child.
  • Your child disagrees with you about their treatment plan.
  • You and your family members disagree about how much your child should be told about their illness.
  • A treatment plan conflicts with your cultural or spiritual beliefs.
  • Your child is over 18 years of age and you have questions about decision-making capacity.
  • You are concerned about whether your child is being treated fairly.

What to expect during an ethics consultation

A member of the Ethics Consultation Service will gather information to understand the ethical issues you are facing. To do this, he or she may talk with you and with members of your healthcare team. The ethics consultant may also attend a meeting with your child's doctors and nurses to discuss your concerns and questions. The ethics consultants 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. After an ethics consultation, you and the healthcare team will continue to work together to care for your child, and the Ethics Consultation Service will be available for follow-up as needed.