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In this paper we assume that ‘theory’ is important for Clinical Ethics Support Services (CESS). We will argue that the underlying implicit theory should be reflected. Moreover, we suggest that the theoretical components on which any clinical ethics support (CES) relies should be explicitly articulated in order to enhance the quality of CES.

A theoretical framework appropriate for CES will be necessarily complex and should include ethical (both descriptive and normative), metaethical and organizational components. The various forms of CES that exist in North‐America and in Europe show their underlying theory more or less explicitly, with most of them referring to some kind of theoretical components including ‘how‐to’ questions (methodology), organizational issues (implementation), problem analysis (phenomenology or typology of problems), and related ethical issues such as end‐of‐life decisions (major ethical topics).

In order to illustrate and explain the theoretical framework that we are suggesting for our own CES project METAP, we will outline this project which has been established in a multi‐centre context in several healthcare institutions. We conceptualize three ‘pillars’ as the major components of our theoretical framework: (1) evidence, (2) competence, and (3) discourse. As a whole, the framework is aimed at developing a foundation of our CES project METAP.

We conclude that this specific integration of theoretical components is a promising model for the fruitful further development of CES.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medical and Health Ethics and the Clinical Ethics Support project METAP at the Medical Faculty/University Hospital Basel, Switzerland 2: University of Mannheim, also working as a researcher at Hannover Medical School 3: Department of Medical and Health Ethics

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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