Serving the Underserved: Caring for People Who Are Both Old and Mentally Retarded: A Handbook for Caregivers

By Mary C. Howell; Deirdre G. Gavin et al. | Go to book overview

tions of the ethics committee." 7 The next chapter considers the experience of the Institutional Ethics Committee at the Fernald School.


54
IMPACT OF AN INSTITUTIONAL ETHICS COMMITTEE

Carolyn Nock

The functions of the Institutional Ethics Committee at the Fernald School were clearly stated from the beginning. The first was education of Committee members, of Fernald staff (both direct care and professionals from various disciplines), of families, and of a wider audience of professional and laypeople. The second function was the development of policies and guidelines to be promulgated to those who would have a role in recommending procedures and treatments. The third function was consultation and case review, of cases in progress as well as of cases no longer active.

Members of the Committee included physicians, a nurse practitioner, nurses, an ethicist, a priest, a social worker, a lawyer, a member of the direct care staff, the Human Rights Officer, a member of the Fernald administration, and a layperson who was also a relative of a resident of the school.

Early on the Committee recognized that there were no other state schools with ethics committees. The Committee at Fernald thus began work with the bare structure of a stated function and purpose. The lack of precedent is reflected in the early minutes; members raised many questions as to procedure and jurisdiction. Early discussion centered on how decisions made in the context of a hospital might be applicable at a state school for people with mental retardation.

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