According to a study in The American Journal of Bioethics, physicians and patients need assistance in order to deal with complex moral issues.

Physicians often have the tendency to label their patients as ‘difficult’ when things become difficult, however, according to the author of the new study it actually the system that is at fault and not the patients.

Bioethicist Autumn Fiester of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy explained:

“All providers encounter patients they find challenging or difficult, but often the problems are too entrenched or severe for a provider to resolve without assistance. The answer to this widespread problem is to make mediation resources available to clinicians through their hospital’s ethics consult service.”

Fiester highlights that clinicians consider between 15% to 60% of patients in the healthcare system difficult. At present physicians and patients are the only ones dealing with these problems, regardless of what caused them. According to Fiester, hospital ethics consultants also have an obligation to get involved.

Critics state that these kinds of situations are not typically; nor should they be the role of ethicists in hospital. Other critics argue that third party intervention should not be required in order to resolve these “difficult situations” and that they should be solved between physicians and patients.

In the report, Fiester provides several reasons as to why mediation is the best approach in these difficult situations. Over the last few years clinical mediation has grown in popularity.

Fiester is the director of a certificate program at the University of Pennsylvania that focuses upon mediation to resolve difficult ethical situations in the hospital.

Fiester said:

“There is a moral mandate to offer assistance in the resolution of these ethically charged conflicts that is no less pressing than the more familiar terrain of clinical ethics consultation.”

Written By Grace Rattue