Ethics Consultation Service

The Ethics Consultation Service (ECS) is a team of staff members from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who have special training in medical ethics and have a lot of experience helping families and healthcare teams make difficult decisions. The ECS is here help you and your child’s healthcare team as you work together to make important decisions about your child's care.

What is an ethical concern?

Ethical concerns can come up when you and the healthcare team must make difficult decisions about your child's care that involve your values or beliefs. At times, members of the team may not agree with each other, or family members may disagree with each other. Sometimes you and your child may disagree about the right thing to do. You may feel stressed and confused about the choices you face. In many cases, it's not easy to choose what is best for your child.

When you have an ethical concern about your child's care, the ECS can help you.

What are some examples of ethical concerns?

Ethical concerns can include things like:

  • You and the healthcare team have different ideas about the best thing to do for your child.
  • You are not sure which treatment plan is in your child’s best interest.
  • Your child disagrees with you about their treatment plan.
  • You and your family members disagree about how much to tell your child about their illness.
  • A treatment plan conflicts with your cultural or spiritual beliefs.
  • Your child is 18 years old (or older), and you have questions about who gets to make treatment decisions about their health.
  • You are worried about whether your child is being treated fairly.

Sometimes people are not sure if their concern is an ethics issue. Even if you are not sure, our team can talk with you about your concerns. If we are not the right team to help you, we can often refer you to the right person, team or department to address your issue.

How can I reach the ECS?

The Ethics Consultation Service is available to any CHOP patient, parent or guardian. CHOP staff can also request a consult.

To request an ethics consult:

  • Call 215-590-1000 and ask the operator to contact the on-call ethics consultant.
  • Ask any member of your child’s care team to request an ethics consultation for you. 

What can I expect during an ethics consultation?

An ethics consultation team member will ask you to share information about your ethical concerns. They may also talk with members of your child’s healthcare team. An ethics consultant may attend a meeting with your child's doctors and nurses to talk about your concerns and questions. The consultant will work to help you and the care team understand each other's concerns. They will also explore options and possible solutions.

Please know that your care team will not be angry with you or hold it against you in any way if you ask for an ethics consult.

Final decisions about your child's care belong to you and the healthcare team. After an ethics consult, you and the care team will continue to partner to care for your child. The Ethics Consultation Service is available for follow-up as needed.

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