Medical Ethicists help with decisions


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND)- Doctors and their patients’ families often face difficult decisions when patients can no longer speak for themselves.

Like its counterparts at other hospitals, the Clinical Ethics Center at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield helps families through those decisions.

“Families, when they’re presented with these questions, sometimes they are life-and-death questions,” said Dr. Christine Gorka, director of the Clinical Ethics Center. “Sometimes there’s this burden upon them to try to make the right decision.”

The Clinical Ethics Center at Memorial is one of the nation’s busiest, a team of trained ethicists that consults on more than 500 cases each year. Their primary goal is to find out what a patient would want in a given situation.

“We try to find as many sources for that information,” said ethicist Dr. Barbara Hinze. “We will go to family that know them very well, family members that they trust. For example, sometime people will fill out an advance directive saying ‘I trust this person to help me make decisions when I can’t make those decisions.’”

Hinze said ethicists also consult other family members, friends or documents like living wills, but she adds easy answers are still hard to come by.

“Nobody likes to talk about ‘what if,’ or if they talk about ‘what if,’ they think about it in very extreme circumstances like if I’m hooked up to machines and I’m never able to speak again,” Hinze said. “Sometimes it’s not that sort of situation.”

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