Bioethics

Navigating difficult decisions for yourself or a loved one?

Some decisions seem almost impossible to make:

My mom signed a do-not-resuscitate directive, but my brothers won’t agree to it.
My dad is refusing treatment, but seems to be confused much of the time.
The doctors are strongly recommending an aggressive treatment I don’t think I want.
My religion forbids the treatment being offered for my child.

If you are struggling with a similar complex issue, the bioethics team at Virginia Mason can help. Our services are free and completely confidential.

Getting help navigating tough decisions

Bioethics meeting

Bioethics is a fairly new field that helps navigate advances in biology and medicine — from research to medical technology to bedside care and the health of the entire community. Most bioethical questions boil down to some form of: How should we move forward when we disagree? What should we do next when we disagree?

Our bioethics consultants are Certified Healthcare Ethics Consultants with advanced training in bioethics. We help people think through difficult situations and identify all ethically-permissible options. We take the time to listen carefully to understand your personal beliefs and what is important to you and to others involved. We work toward resolving conflicts by creating a shared understanding that helps people make ethically-informed decisions.

Our approach involves:

  • Confirming a patient’s ability to make decisions
  • Talking through the pros and cons of each decision
  • Helping you clarify your thoughts and values
  • Gathering information related to the issue
  • Letting you know if laws or policies apply
  • Communicating with your health care team
  • Helping with disagreements about care
  • Offering advice and suggestions

When a conflict is present, and if an agreement cannot be reached, the bioethics team may ask for additional review, request a second opinion, enlist additional members of the bioethics team or involve the hospital’s administrative leaders.

The bioethics team at Virginia Mason

Typically, when you request a bioethics consultant, you will work with one person who will help you. Each consultant can draw upon the resources of the bioethics team, which includes doctors, nurses, social workers, patient relations representatives, spiritual care providers and patient family partners.

Patients or family members may request that other members of the team be involved at the end of the conflict resolution process, but this is typically done in only the most complex cases.

Each member of the team is committed to creating a shared understanding for the best possible conflict resolution.

To request a meeting with a bioethics consultant

If you and your loved ones are faced with an ethically challenging decision, please feel free to call us and request a meeting with a bioethical consultant. You can ask your doctor or nurse to contact us. You can also call us directly, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at: (206) 223-6600.