Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Special Section: Ethics Consultants and Ethics Consultations

A Description of Humanist Scholars Functioning as Ethicists in the Clinical Setting

Joy D. Skeela1, Donnie J. Selfa2 and Roland T. Skeela3

a1 Department of Psychiatry and Medicine and Director of the Program in Medical Humanities, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo

a2 Medicine, Pediatrics, and Philosophy, College of Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station

a3 Chief of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo

This descriptive study is an attempt to characterize the field known as clinical ethics, with regard to the function of humanities scholars in the clinical setting, e.g., hospitals and ambulatory care clinics. It is not a strict epidemiological study but a qualitative survey, although it reports some empirical data. Most discussions of medical humanities in the literature are conceptual analyses of particular issues, such as informed consent, abortion, confidentiality, etc. Virtually no empirical studies with data on how many clinical ethicists function in what roles and with what educational backgrounds have been reported. This is the first such study of humanities scholars in clinical ethics and will be followed by companion reports of physicians and hospital chaplains who are, by self-report, involved in clinical ethics. This report is an effort to stimulate and encourage dialogue and is in no way definitive. It is a preliminary study, and other needed studies are already underway.