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Systematic Review of Typologies Used to Characterize Clinical Ethics Consultations

Jennifer E deSante-Bertkau, Michelle L McGowan, Armand H Matheny Antommaria
Journal of Clinical Ethics 2018, 29 (4): 291-304

INTRODUCTION: Classifying the ethical issues in clinical ethics consultations is important to clinical practice and scholarship. We conducted a systematic review to characterize the typologies used to analyze clinical ethics consultations.

METHODS: We identified empirical studies of clinical ethics consultation that report types of ethical issues using PubMed. We screened these articles based on their titles and abstracts, and then by a review of their full text. We extracted study characteristics and typologies and coded the typologies.

RESULTS: We reviewed 438 articles; 30 of the articles fulfilled our inclusion criteria. We identified 27 unique typologies. Each typology contained five to 47 categories (mean was 18). The most common categories were DNAR (do-not-attempt-resuscitation) orders (19 of the 27 typologies, or 70 percent), capacity (18 of the typologies, or 67 percent), withholding (18 of the typologies, or 67 percent), withdrawing (17 of the typologies, or 63 percent), and surrogate or proxy (16 of the typologies, or 59 percent). Only seven (26 percent) of the typologies contained all five of the most common categories. The typologies we used to characterize clinical ethics consultation exhibit significant heterogeneity and several conceptual limitations. A common typology is needed whose development may require multi-institutional collaboration and could be facilitated by professional organizations.


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