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What we do

The Department of Bioethics at SickKids offers a consultation service for patients, families, and staff. This service is available to all patients, families, and health care practitioners who want help making difficult ethical decisions.

This information is available in:

What do you mean by difficult ethical decisions?

Sometimes people are not sure what the right thing to do is. They may be faced with a complicated problem or situation about which they have no experience. They may be faced with a problem with conflicting or unclear values or a situation where there is uncertainty about how to proceed.

Some examples include:

  • “My doctor asked me to be part of a research study, and my parents say it is my decision. What questions should I ask?”
  • “Should we tell our child how serious her illness is?”
  • “My child is growing up, and sometimes seems old enough to make his own decisions. Should I let him decide about his medical treatment?”
  • “I want to do what is best for my baby, but whatever I choose may cause her harm. How can I decide? What is the best thing to do?”

How can a bioethicist help?

Bioethicists are professionals who have been educated and specially trained to identify and
help understand ethical problems. They may have education in philosophy, law, theology or one of the various health professions, with additional special training in bioethics. They do not provide the right answer, or tell you what to do, but may be able to help you with the process of thinking through difficult ethical decisions.

What else do bioethicists do?

Bioethicists are involved in research, and supervise fellows and students. They are available to assist with policy development and review and offer ethics education to health care practitioners. Physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, pastoral workers, other staff and students are all invited to make use of these services. Possible educational formats include: interdisciplinary or discipline specific rounds, group or individual discussions, and formal presentations.

How do I contact a bioethicist?

Patients, families and staff may call the Bioethics Department directly or they may also ask hospital staff to contact the Bioethics Department on their behalf. While open discussion among all those involved is encouraged, confidential consultations are also available. 

Contact: 416-813-5000