Help with Ethical Decisions

Pediatrics Ethics Committee

Patients and families sometimes face troubling decisions about medical care. Learning medical facts is helpful but may not be enough. Sometimes decisions are difficult because they involve values, not medical science. We can do many things, but it is not always clear that we should. This is where the ethics committee may be helpful.

The University of Michigan has a Pediatric Ethics Committee (PEC) to help patients, families and staff with these questions and decisions. The committee may help you and your child’s medical team clarify facts, examine ethical issues, and assist in the resolution of disagreements about your child’s care.  The committee includes people with additional training in medical ethics, doctors, nurses, social workers, a lawyer, a chaplain, an administrator, and members of the community. 

Why Is There a Pediatric Ethics Committee?

The University of Michigan has a Pediatric Ethics Committee because the best medical care requires not only medical skill but good moral judgment. The Committee’s main purpose is to offer help and guidance on moral and ethical questions, such as:

  • Should treatment be started or stopped?
  • How much should a child be told about his or her disease?
  • Is the promise of treatment worth the suffering it may cause?
  • What is the best thing to do when we must face the end of life? 


How Does the Process Work?

The committee is available for consultation to family members, patients, staff, and health care providers. When consulted, members of the committee will talk with the family and health care team treating the patient to gather the facts of the case and will review the medical record.

After a full discussion with the health care team and family and after gathering any other needed information, the consultants will meet to consider all the issues. They will recommend ethically acceptable options and a member of the committee will talk with the family and treatment team about them. The committee’s recommendation(s) will become a part of the patient’s medical record. 

Do I Have to Follow the PEC’s Recommendation(s)?

No. The PEC’s recommendations are not binding or mandatory. The final decision always rests with the family members and the health care team. 

Request a Consult

If you’d like to meet with the Pediatric Ethics Committee, the first step is to contact the group in one of two ways:

  • If you feel comfortable doing so, ask a member of the patient’s health care team to contact the PEC.
  • If you’d rather contact the PEC directly, call the Ethics line at 734-615-1379. You can also call the main hospital at 734-936-4000 and ask them to page the clinical ethicist on call;  Someone will get back to you promptly.

For more information on the Clinical Ethics program please visit our website here.