Clinical Ethics Consults

Clinical ethics consultation is provided by the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The Clinical Ethics Consultation Service [CECS] responds to requests for support in addressing ethical questions, conflicts or concerns in patient care. The CECS is a resource for inpatient and outpatient settings across VUMC and the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network. Clinical ethics consultation may be requested by any member of the VUMC faculty and staff, as well as by patients, their surrogates and family members.

The CECS aims to elevate patient care by improving health care decision making, promoting and supporting shared decision making, and by facilitating and encouraging respectful engagement of ethical concerns. Broadly, ethics consultants work with health care teams to discern medically appropriate care goals/options and milestones of effectiveness; they also help patients/families identify and explore relevant preferences and values in relation to their goals and medical options. No fees are charged for this service.

When to Request a Clinical Ethics Consultation

Clinicians, patients and/or families should consider requesting an ethics consultation when they think additional ethics support would be helpful in addressing ethical concerns, questions or conflicts that arise in the areas below: 

  • Decision-Making Capacity
  • Informed Consent and Refusal
  • Surrogate Decision Making
  • Advance Care Planning and Advance Directives
  • End-of-life Decision Making
  • Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Complex Discharge Planning
  • Decision Making for Minors 
  • Unusual or unprecedented patient care situations

How to Request an Ethics Consultation

An ethics consultant is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The clinical ethics consultant can be reached by:

  1. Ordering a consult through eStar 
  2. Paging the clinical ethics consultant directly at (615) 831-8603
  3. Contacting the Vanderbilt University Medical Center operator, and asking for the ethicist on call