Ethics Consultation Services

Ethics Consultation Services

VIDEO | 01:17
Learn about how to request an ethics consultation from Louis Voigt, chair of the Ethics Committee.
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Difficult questions can come along with treatment for cancer. Many of them can be addressed by talking openly with your family, caregivers, friends, and healthcare team. Your doctors, nurses, therapists, nutritionists, and social workers are just a few of the people who can help you with your concerns.

Occasionally, you may have questions that involve your moral or religious beliefs. Some may be linked to who you are as a person, and they may not be easy to resolve. You and your loved ones may disagree about your choices, your loved ones and your care team may have different ideas about your care, or various other scenarios.

There are many ways that MSK can help you and your loved ones with these challenging situations. These include social work, patient representation, spiritual and religious care, and an ethics consultation.

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1. What is an ethics consultation?

In an ethics consultation, our experts help you and your family, caregivers, and friends make decisions about treatment and resolve conflicts.

MSK’s ethics consultation team is made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, and hospital staff. They are trained in mediation, communication, and ethics. They work with everyone involved to consider the treatment options and make sure they are in line with your values and preferences.

The team can help you feel less burdened by the decisions you need to make so that you can focus on yourself and your loved ones.

8 Questions with Louis Voigt, an Expert on Medical Ethics
Learn about Louis Voigt, a critical care medicine specialist who is Chair of MSK's Ethics Committee.
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2. Who can have an ethics consultation?

The ethics consultation team is available to assist you and your family and caregivers whether you are being treated in Memorial Hospital or as an outpatient at one of MSK’s regional sites. The guidance offered in an ethics consultation is confidential and free of charge.

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3. When should I request an ethics consultation?

There are many reasons you might want an ethics consultation:

  • to help clearly explain your values to your care team
  • to ease any tension between you and your family, friends, caregivers, or care team
  • to help your loved ones make difficult decisions about your treatment (for example, if you can’t make decisions for yourself)
  • to work through differences of opinion about treatment between you and your spouse, or between parents or guardians of a child with cancer
  • to help your loved ones if they disagree with your or your care team’s plan to stop a treatment
  • to resolve a disagreement that you and your loved ones have with your care team about your treatment
  • to sort out any disputes between you and your loved ones about who you have appointed as your healthcare agent
  • to address if your doctor isn’t following through with a request from you or your loved ones for certain treatments, such as experimental drugs or alternative medicine
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4. What happens during an ethics consultation?

The ethics consultant will listen to your concerns and may ask for more information to get a better understanding of what you are facing. The consultant may need to contact your doctors and other members of your care team as well. They may arrange a meeting with you and the others involved to:

  • define the root causes of the issue
  • gather your views and those of the people involved in your care
  • find a workable solution that you, your loved ones, and your care team can agree on

At the start, you may feel uneasy sharing your feelings because you do not want anyone else to be uncomfortable. But the consultant will work with you and the others involved so that you can talk to one another in a respectful way that focuses on you and your concerns. Remember that the ethics consultation process is designed to bring people together to understand the issues that affect you and to find solutions.

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5. How do I set up an ethics consultation?

To set up an ethics consultation, call the Ethics Consultation Hotline at 212-639-8604. You will need to provide some information:

  • your name (or the name of the patient that you are calling on behalf of)
  • your medical record number (if available)
  • the names of your doctors and nurses
  • the reason for an ethics consultation
  • a phone number for the team to contact you

An ethics consultant will contact you or the caller directly about the next step.

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