Bioethics is the study of ethical issues posed by advances in biology and medicine.

Wake Forest Baptist Health is committed to providing patients, family members, and hospital staff with assistance on addressing ethical questions that may arise both before and during medical care.

Modern health care often offers complex choices for treatment, and sometimes these options can leave us asking “What should be done?” or “What is the best thing to do?” These questions fall within the field of bioethics, the study of ethical issues posed by advances in biology and medicine.

Wake Forest Baptist’s Clinical Ethics Committee, a committee made up of physicians, nurses, lawyers, chaplains, social workers, academics, and community members, helps patients and staff in dealing with difficult ethical questions through advance care planning, educational programming, and the clinical ethics consultation service.

Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is an organized approach to starting discussion, reflection, and understanding regarding an individual’s current state of health, goals, values, and preferences for future treatment decisions.

In short, advance care planning allows you to declare your wishes now for medical treatment decisions in the future, ensuring your wishes will be honored in situations when you may not be able to voice your wishes.

Advance care planning has been shown to increase a patient’s satisfaction during end-of-life care, to improve communication among patients, families, and caregivers during difficult situations, and to give physicians clearer guidance about end-of-life care.

Anyone can make their medical wishes known by filling out different kinds of advance directives, which include living wills, health care power of attorney forms, and portable medical orders of treatment.

Find out more about advanced directives and resources to help you let your wishes and preferences be known.

Educational Programming

Wake Forest Baptist offers opportunities for hospital staff and community members to learn more about bioethics topics and issues. Our goal is to educate both our staff and the general public on important ethical issues that may arise during a patient’s care, and to help them make well informed and morally sound choices.

Clinical Ethics Consultation Service

Sometimes deciding which treatment is best for a specific patient can be a challenge. Questions may arise about treatments near the end or beginning of life, about who should speak for an unconscious patient, about refusing a suggested treatment, and about cultural or religious differences, to name a few.

When hard choices arise, people involved in the care of the patient may be unsure about how to proceed, or they may disagree. In these situations, consultation with ethics committee members may help those involved understand the situation better and agree on what to do.

During a consultation, the consultation team will talk with the health care team, the family, and the patient in order to understand everyone’s concerns, always respecting the interests and rights of all involved.

The consultants will suggest options and advice for the patient’s care, but the final decision will always remain with the doctors, patient and family.

The ethics consultants will respect your privacy and ensure complete confidentiality within legal limits.

Clinical ethics consultation is free of charge, and anyone involved in the patient’s care can request a consult by calling 336-713-4400.