Help with ethical dilemmas is a phone call away

(Photo by Teresa Bodnar-Hiebert)

Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The provincial HealthLine 811 now includes an ability to request an ethics consultation.

HealthLine 811 is a free, confidential, 24-hour health and mental health and addictions advice, education and support telephone line available to the people of Saskatchewan, staffed by experienced professionals. Saskatchewan residents simply dial 811 to be connected with HealthLine.

Access to ethics consultants was added to the 811 service in the summer of 2019. The health ethics program is a collaboration between the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Emmanuel Health and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.

Ethics consultants are available at HealthLine 811 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday (excluding statutory holidays).

“When 811 takes the request they ask some basic questions. They also ask if you are asking for the Catholic ethicist or the Health Authority ethicist, which facility your call pertains to, etc. The person requesting the ethics consult can also ask the ethicist that he/she remain anonymous,” says Teresa Bodnar-Hiebert, a member of the Saskatoon and Saskatchewan Cancer Agency Joint Ethics Committee. “The huge benefit of 811 is that you can call from home, work, or any other location.”

A pamphlet about the program explains: “Every day, people make decisions about how to provide the best care possible for patients, residents, clients and families. Ethics Services is available to help anyone who may want help thinking through their decisions. This includes patients, residents, family members, employees or physicians. Some of the issues people bring to Ethics Services are simple. Others are much more complicated.”

Because of the development of new technology and treatments, decisions in health care can be complex. “However, even with these new developments, the way that people think about problems has not changed,” points out the program pamphlet. “We still have values and principles that guide our decisions, and are still able to talk through our problems with other people.”

“SaskEthics” column by Dr. Mary Heilman, PhD, ethicist for the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan:  “Moral Distress is an Early Warning System” 

An ethical dilemma may arise when a person has to choose between conflicting values, beliefs or duties. Signs of an ethical dilemma might include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable about a decision or course of action
  • Not knowing what is the best choice between possible actions
  • Disagreeing with others about what should be done
  • Worrying that someone has been treated unfairly.

An ethics consultation may take place over the phone, in person, or through a meeting. Those who use the service are not obligated to take the advice of the ethics consultant. “They are there to offer you suggestions and support you, not to take your decision away from you,” states the program pamphlet.


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