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Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee supports and educates our members and medical staff about the ethical aspects of medical care. We provide a setting for the consideration of medical ethical issues.

One of the goals at Kaiser Permanente is to provide health care that respects the dignity and privacy of our members and their families.

The Ethics Committee provides a forum for the identification and discussion of ethical and social questions arising from the delivery of health care. The committee is especially concerned with issues related to the responsibility of providing care in a humane manner that respects the dignity and privacy of patients and their families. The committee offers a means for members and medical staff to come together when medical conflicts and ethical questions arise. The Ethics Committee can help to clarify options and discuss recommendations in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere. For example, family members may disagree about what to do for an unconscious relative who is on life support. Or a patient may decline medical care because of personal beliefs, while the physician may believe it is his or her duty to give the treatment.

What is the role of the Ethics Committee?

It can help:

  • Promote discussion between groups in conflict and help clarify their choices and options
  • Recommend courses of action for patients and families to consider
  • Kaiser Permanente members and their medical teams agree about what to do

It also reviews internal staff education and policy issues concerning:

  • Patients’ rights
  • Withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining care
  • “Do not attempt resuscitation” orders
  • Conflict resolution

The recommendations of the committee are nonbinding and are not intended to replace or jeopardize the physician-patient relationship. Decisions about your care are still between you and your physician.

Who is on the Ethics Committee?

Physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers, other staff members, and non-staff members from the community.

How do I contact the Ethics Committee?

Anyone, including patients and their families, may refer a case to the Ethics Committee. Please call and leave a message for Fremont at (510) 248-7153 or for San Leandro at (510) 454-2015 and provide the following information:

  • Your name and the best way to reach you (include times)
  • The patient’s name and location/room number
  • The patient’s Medical Record Number
  • The names of physicians and other members of the medical team involved with the patient’s care
  • A brief description of your concern or ethical issue

The voicemail is checked Monday through Friday, except on holidays, and responded to in a timely fashion. We will call you back and ask a few questions to gather details about your concerns including:

  • A brief description of the case, including the patient’s diagnosis
  • Information about key people in the patient’s life, including family members, significant others, and friends
  • Information about applicable legal documents, such as advance directives or conservatorship documents

Ethics Committee members will gather information and conduct preliminary interviews. If needed, they will also meet personally with interested parties.