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Patient-centred care : qualitative findings on health professionals' understanding of ethics in acute medicine
In recent years the literature on bioethics has begun to pose the sociological challenge of how to explore organizational processes that facilitate a systemic response to ethical concerns. The present discussion seeks to make a contribution to this important new direction in ethical research by presenting findings from an Australian pilot study. The research was initiated by the Clinical Ethics Committee of Redland Hospital at Bayside Health Service District in Queensland, Australia, and explores health professionals’ understanding of the nature of ethics and their experience with ethical decision-making within an acute medical ward. This study focuses on the actual experience, understanding and attitudes of clinical professionals in a general medical ward. In particular, the discussion explores the specific findings from the study concerned with how a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals define and operationalise the notion of ethics in an acute ward hospital setting. The key issue reported is that health professionals are not only able to clearly articulate notions of ethics, but that the notions expressed by a multi-disciplinary diversity of participants share a common definitional concept of ethics as patient-centred care. The central finding is that all professional groups indicated that there is a guiding principle to address their ethical sense of the ‘good’ or the ‘ought’ and that is to act in a way that furthered the interests of patients and their families. The findings affirm the importance of a sociological perspective as a productive new direction in bioethical research.