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American Journal of Bioethics.

Were the “Pioneer” Clinical Ethics Consultants “Outsiders”? For Them, Was “Critical Distance” That Critical?

“Clinical ethics consultants” have been practicing in the United States for about 50 years. Most of the earliest consultants—the “pioneers”—were “outsiders” when they first appeared at patients’ bedsides and in the clinic. However, if they were outsiders initially, they acclimated to the clinical setting and became “insiders” very quickly. Moreover, there was some tension between traditional academics and those doing applied ethics about whether there was sufficient “critical distance” for appropriate reflection about the complex medical ethics dilemmas of the day if one were involved in the decision making. Again, the pioneers deflected concerns by identifying and instituting safeguards to assure professional objectivity in clinical ethics consultation services. One might suggest that in moving inside and establishing normative practices, the pioneer clinical ethics consultants anticipated adoption of their routines and professionalization of the field.

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Volume 18, Issue 1
June 2018