Clinical Ethics

Ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of good and differentiating right from wrong. It involves critical thinking about how we live and act, analyzing how our values inform our behaviors, and giving reasons for why some choices are better than others.

In healthcare decisions made everyday may be considered ‘ethical’ in that they cannot be answered without appealing to values. For this reason, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has a strong ethics program.

What is clinical ethics?

Clinical ethics is about making value-based decisions in the delivery of health care.

Patients, families, staff, clinicians, and trainees make ethical decisions every day. Most times, they do not need help with these decisions. However when difficult ethical situations arise and it is not clear what the “right” decision is, clinical ethics provides a platform to discuss the problem. The primary ethical questions that clinical ethics deals with are:

  • What should we do? (what actions or steps are good or right?)
  • Why should we do it? (what are our reasons, and what do they mean?)
  • How should we do it? (what is the most ethical approach?)

In seeking answers to these questions, clinical ethicists in collaboration with healthcare team members, patients, and family members examine basic ethical principles such as autonomy (the right for individuals to make choices about what happens to them), beneficence (the desire to do good), non-maleficence (the duty to prevent harm), and justice (fairness).

For Patients and Families

Ethics consultations at LHSC are provided by staff that have been educated and trained to assist with ethical problems that arise in health care settings. The goal is to move the decision making process forward while attending to ethical concerns point by point. The ethicist is there to assist patients, families and health care providers to identify, clarify and work through ethical concerns.

When should I ask for a clinical ethics consultation?

If you find yourself struggling with a difficult ethical decision, or wondering what is the right thing to do in a complex patient care situation, think about contacting the clinical ethics consultation service. A patient, family members or any health care providers involved in the care of the patient may ask for a consultation by contacting the Clinical Ethics Consultation Service.

Contact us:

  • Ethics is available at or pager 19578.
  • Ethics consultation service is available Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.