The quality of clinical ethics services in health care organizations is increasingly seen as an important aspect of the overall quality of care. But measuring this quality is difficult because there is a lack of clarity and consensus regarding the objectives of clinical ethics and the best outcome domains to measure. The aim of this qualitative study is to explore the views of experts about the objectives and outcomes of clinical ethics services in the US. We interviewed 19 experts in clinical ethics, focusing on the appropriate objectives and outcomes of a clinical ethics service (CES). Participants were selected using a purposive snowball sampling strategy. The development of the interview protocol was informed by the clinical ethics literature as well as by research and theories that inform clinical ethics practice. Interviews were conducted by phone, recorded, and transcribed for individual analysis. Analysis proceeded through the development of a codebook of categories using QDA Miner software. Our experts identified 12 objectives and nine outcomes. Some of these identifications were familiar (e.g., mediation and satisfaction) and some were novel (e.g., be of service and transformation). We found that experts are divided in their emphasis on the kinds of objectives that are most important. In terms of outcomes, our experts were concerned with the appropriateness of different proxy and direct measures. This study provides the perspectives of a select group of experts on the objectives and outcomes appropriate for a CES in the United States. The themes identified will be used in future research to inform a Delphi study to refine and obtain expert consensus.


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pp. 127-142
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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