Education Sessions

Ethics Education Sessions

The John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre aspires to support learners, including health professionals, health organizations, students, faculty, and staff, to understand and consider how health ethics relates to clinical practice and scholarship. Members of the Centre make themselves available for small and large group teaching within and beyond the University of Alberta and affiliate Hospitals. For example, we offer sessions embedded in clinical rounds, academic half-days, departmental retreats, graduate courses, and other curricula. We are happy to tailor individual sessions to particular groups and topics.

Sessions can be delivered with a focus on ethical issues alone, or with ethical and related legal considerations and their intersection. Sessions can also be individually tailored to meet the learning needs of audiences. Issues covered in past sessions have been wide-ranging and include example sessions as listed below.

Foundational sessions

Introduction to health ethics

We explore the meaning of health ethics founding professional practice. At the same time, we introduce different moral-ethical perspectives that may be employed as heuristics in health care: deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, casuistry, narrative ethics, ethics of care, and so forth.

Professionalism and the codification of health ethics

In this session, we explore professionalism and its relationship to health ethics. We discuss the history of professionalism as well as the privileges, responsibilities, and obligations of self-regulation of health professions. [Note: this is a topic that lends itself well to legal issues as well as the duties, self-regulating professions are all founded on legislation in each province/territory and are based on legal duties.]

Navigating ethically challenging situations

We explore commonly employed principles in health ethics: respect for autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice. We discuss the process of shared decision-making with patients (and family/supports), taking into consideration the individual patient’s context, beliefs, understandings, and choices as well as the professional responsibilities of the practitioner. [Note: this is a topic that lends itself well to legal issues as there are a number of laws respecting decision-making. In the past, some of the interesting discussions have involved whether the law in place aligns well (or not) with the ethical approach to decision-making.]

Health ethics and the law

We discuss the relationship of health ethics and health law. We review sources of law for health professionals. We discuss legal responsibilities for practice which can cover numerous topics and areas including: informed consent, confidentiality, truth-telling, and negligence. This session can also be delivered over consecutive sessions.

Faith based ethics

Religious faith is a guiding factor for many facing ethical decisions regarding healthcare, as practitioners, as patients, and as care-givers. This session will explore some values, principles, and beliefs that offer guidance in ethical decision-making among persons of faith. 

Collaborative in-service sessions

Debriefing of difficult cases

We offer sessions with clinicians to discuss difficult clinical cases. We find that these sessions are best offered collaboratively whereby the specific medical details of cases are presented by clinical staff, and we facilitate discussion around the cases.

Debriefing of adverse events

We support debriefing of adverse events for clinical teams, as well as moving forward to improve the workplace environment for learners, faculty, and staff. Health care practice inevitably creates moral dilemmas, and responding to these effectively is key to the effectiveness and job satisfaction of clinical professionals.

Facilitating difficult conversations

By their very nature, ethical challenges in the clinical setting can be a source of tension and misunderstanding. We offer support by facilitating discussions with teams around delicate subjects.

Special sessions

Advocacy ethics

In this session, we identify persistent and emerging disparities in the provision of health care. We discuss systemic issues within health care that perpetuate and disadvantage populations of individuals. We draw distinctions between equality, equity, and justice.

End of life ethics

We discuss how death is understood in health care. We encourage participants to reflect on individual experiences of death and dying, and discuss how to support patients and their families in death and dying. Strategies for dealing with some specific requests and issues at the end-of-life will be included.

Disability ethics

We explore concepts of disability, quality of life, and life quality. We discuss normativity biases (i.e. ableism) in general, and specifically within health care.

Goals of care ethics

In this session, we describe ethical and legal imperatives involved in supporting goals of care decision making. We discuss specific strategies for breaking news with patients and their families. We discuss the ethics of directed and surrogate decision making, including capacity assessments.

Organ donation ethics

We discuss societal and moral support for organ donation. We discuss ethics related to caring for an organ donor, as well as an organ recipient. We discuss the ethics of neurological determination of death and circulatory determination of death. 

Research ethics

We offer an introduction to the core principles of research ethics and the questions that often arise during ethics review including fundamentals of consent in research and communicating risks to potential research participants. We also review some notorious historical examples of unethical research, and discuss what has been learned as a result.

Resource allocation ethics

We discuss the concept of resource allocation in the management of the individual patient’s healthcare within the whole health system. We discuss the concept of resource allocation related to organ transplantation and pandemic planning. We also discuss broader resource allocation decisions within society.

Team ethics

We discuss how clinical teams work well together, support each other, communicate effectively, and share individual expertise for the wellbeing of patients. We also discuss the meaning of moral distress, and the ethics of working in interdisciplinary teams where varied opinions exist regarding ethical decisions.

Technology ethics

We discuss considerations regarding the reasonable use of medical technologies in health care. We draw ethical distinctions between initiating, withdrawing, and withholding medical treatments. We point to strategies for understanding the unique ethics of different medical technologies.

Please contact the Centre to discuss how we might support your learners, faculty, and staff.