Ethicists Play an Important Role in Mental Health Care

Welcome to my first blog post on #MindVine!

This is an exciting opportunity to highlight some of the many research projects and initiatives taking place at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores).

It is my hope that my fellow researchers and I will spread the word regarding research-related news and issues at Ontario Shores through blog posts and social media discussions on #MindVine to help readers and followers understand a little more about the work we do and the role we play in achieving positive outcomes for patients and families.

To kick off my inaugural blog post, I am going to highlight a function at Ontario Shores which plays an important role in the overall care provided to patients and their loved ones.

When it comes to caring for someone with dementia, there are various ethical considerations when taking into account the perspective of the client, family members, and caregivers.

In the April, 2013 issue of Canadian Nursing Home, Rosanna Macri, our ethicist at Ontario Shores, and Bob Parke, ethicist at Humber River Regional Hospital, authored a poignant article on the role of a bioethicist in caring for people with dementia.

The article, entitled ‘Beyond hospital walls: Defining the role of bioethicist in Long Term Care’, is available by subscription to Canadian Nursing Home.

Although bioethicists have been traditionally employed in hospital settings, the article advocates for moving bioethicists into the community where the preponderance of healthcare is currently delivered. By moving “beyond hospital walls” bioethicists play a role in enhancing total quality care and maximizing appropriate healthcare utilization.

With respect to dementia care, bioethicists can help in promoting “value-based discussions” among those with dementia and their caregivers to determine advance care planning. If the patient and their family do not have advanced care directives, then bioethicists can help work through ethical decision taking into account values and beliefs. Specifically, bioethicists can play a role in supporting people through the application of palliative care principles including discomfort, psychosocial, emotional and spiritual symptoms of pain. Similarly, bioethicists can play an important role in decisions related to feeding difficulties in dementia.

In addition to working directly with families and caregivers, bioethicists have an important role to play with organizations providing care to people with dementia in developing education and policies that are ethics-based.