Issue 1 • 2021

RACP releases its first Position Statement on Clinical Ethics

To support clinicians in understanding and navigating ethical issues in their work, the College has developed the RACP Clinical Ethics Position Statement to encourage and facilitate education in clinical ethics, build capacity in clinical ethics and bolster the further development of Clinical Ethics Support Services in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

The RACP Clinical Ethics Position Statement is the first position statement of its kind to be developed by a medical college. The position statement advocates for a more formalised approach to clinical ethics, to better support practitioners in the contemporary health context. It calls for Clinical Ethics Support Services to be embedded within the Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand healthcare systems. Members are encouraged to consider the increasing importance of continuing to develop their own clinical ethics capacity, and how access to a clinical ethics support service might support difficult decisions in their own workplaces. The statement was produced by the Clinical Ethics Working Party led by Dr Linda Sheahan. Part of this process involved hearing about members experiences in areas that raise ethical considerations, including in the areas of policy and advocacy, education, clinical practice and the health of our communities. Dr Sheahan explains that ethics “is and has always been a fundamental part of healthcare, both at the clinical interface and in the design and delivery of healthcare services. It underpins everything we do in our practice as physicians. In 2021, this work is performed in an increasingly complex environment, characterised by rapid technological advancement, rising community expectations, and increased social, cultural, political, religious and moral diversity. “Ethical issues arise in clinical practice every day and these may be the source of uncertainty, unease, and at times, overt conflict. Clinicians report that they often feel ill prepared to navigate some of these complexities and the RACP seeks to help in addressing this gap.” The Chair of the RACP Ethics Committee, Professor Ian Kerridge, is excited about the impact that the Clinical Ethics Position Statement may have. “While clinical ethics services are increasingly becoming part of the healthcare landscape, particularly in Europe and North America, and particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic, the RACP is the first College to formally endorse the inclusion of clinical ethics in healthcare systems, education and research. “I hope that this Statement will encourage Fellows and trainees to develop skills in clinical ethics and will encourage the College to emphasise clinical ethics education in Basic and Advance Training, provide opportunities for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in clinical ethics and support research in ethical issues arising in healthcare. But I also hope that the Clinical Ethics Position Statement will be used by Fellows in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to advocate for the development, maintenance and appropriate resourcing of expert Clinical Ethics Support Services in their own hospitals and healthcare services.”
© 2021 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians