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Legal Briefing: Healthcare Ethics Committees

The Journal of Clinical Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 74-93, Spring 2011

Posted: 5 Apr 2011 Last revised: 1 Jul 2014

Thaddeus Mason Pope

Mitchell Hamline School of Law; Queensland University of Technology - Australian Health Law Research Center; Saint Georges University; Alden March Bioethics Institute

Date Written: April 4, 2011


Since 2009, Professor Pope has authored a quarterly 'Legal Briefing' column for the Journal of Clinical Ethics. Each briefing comprehensively reviews legal developments concerning a particular issue in clinical bioethics. The Journal of Clinical Ethics owns the exclusive copyright to distribute the full-text content.

This article covers recent legal developments involving institutional healthcare ethics committees. This topic has been the subject of recent articles in JCE. Healthcare ethics committees have also recently been the subject of significant public policy attention. Disturbingly, Bobby Schindler and others have described ethics committees as "death panels." But most of the recent attention has been positive. Over the past several months, legislatures and courts have expanded the use of ethics committees and clarified their roles concerning both end-of-life treatment and other issues. These developments are usefully grouped into the following eight categories: Existence and availability; Membership and composition; Operating procedures; Advisory roles; Decision-making and gate-keeping roles; Confidentiality; Immunity; Litigation and court cases.

Keywords: healthcare ethics committees, healthcare, health law, end of life, healthcare institutions, hospitals, public health

JEL Classification: K32, I18

Suggested Citation

Pope, Thaddeus Mason, Legal Briefing: Healthcare Ethics Committees (April 4, 2011). The Journal of Clinical Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 74-93, Spring 2011. Available at SSRN:

Thaddeus Mason Pope (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Avenue
Room 320
Saint Paul, MN 55105
United States
651-695-7661 (Phone)


Queensland University of Technology - Australian Health Law Research Center ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000

Saint Georges University ( email )

West Indies


Alden March Bioethics Institute ( email )

47 New Scotland Ave
MC 153
Albany, NY 12208
United States


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