Ethics Committees and the Kansas City Regional Hospital Ethics Committee Consortium

The first hospital ethics committees in the nation were established in the 1970s, and the primary catalyst for their growth was the 1976 Karen Quinlan case. As the case was argued, the judge, who had read an article about ethics committees in the Baylor Law Review, remarked that cases like this belong before ethics committees rather than courts. 
In 1992, the Joint Commission – then the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations – mandated that hospitals establish a clinical ethics “mechanism.” The three primary functions of ethics committees, as identified by the American Hospital Association in 1986, are to:

• Educate themselves to “do ethics”
• Develop and review hospital policies
• Consult on complex cases arising in the hospital 
In 1986, in response to numerous ethics committee members seeking opportunities to learn from each other, the Center for Practical Bioethics convened the Kansas City Regional Hospital Ethics Committee Consortium, which remains the oldest continuously operating Consortium of its kind in the nation. Through the years, the Consortium has developed guidelines in response to issues raised by members. 

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