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SJHH / Patients & Visitors/ Ethics


What this Program does…

What is meant by “Ethics” in Health Care?

Patients, their families and health care providers are, from time to time, faced with difficult choices regarding medical treatments involving moral values, beliefs, traditions and preferences.

Ethics in health care is the rational examination of what constitutes ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ the human, legal and moral rights that we have, and the associated duties and obligations that health care professional have to their patients. In particular, to always provide their patients with optimal care and treatments using the least intrusive means, and to ensure that patients are always treated with respect and dignity 

Some examples of ethical dilemmas include:

  • When should life-sustaining treatments like breathing machines or feeding tubes be started, continued or stopped? 
  • What should family members and health care professionals do if a patient refuses treatment that promises to be medically helpful? Do patients have a right to make ‘bad’ choices?
  • Who should make health care decisions for patients when they are unable to communicate or decide for themselves? What is the basis for these difficult decisions?
  • Should an "at risk" patient be allowed to go home if they want to? What if harms befell them upon their return home?

The Bioethics Program does/completes the following:

  • Provides 24/7 Ethics Consultation Support and Services to our patients, their families, staff, physicians, students and volunteers. (These consultations are typically confidential unless disclosure is required by law).
  • Hosts the Ethics Advisory Committee for St Joseph’s Healthcare System
  • Assists with the review and development of policies and guidelines with a significant ethical dimension
  • Participates in the rigorous review of research protocols
  • Provides Ethics Grand Rounds every two months
  • Offers case-based learning opportunities on a wide variety of units
  • Offers regular proactive ‘ethics debrief’ sessions for staff, physicians, students and volunteers     

How this Program helps…

This program offers guidance and support 24/7 to patients, families, staff, physicians, students, volunteers and the organization to navigate through making difficult decisions in situations where there are no easy solutions or answers.  It helps to build ethics capacity and integration at all levels of the organisation.  

Your Care Team & Contact

Steve Abdool, PhD(C), Staff Bioethicist
Telephone: 905-522-1155 ext. 33866

Referral Process

Please do not hesitate to connect with the Staff Bioethicist using any of the contact information noted above. If it is after business hours or on weekends, please speak to your healthcare team to have the Bioethicist on-call paged.


Q: Are you a staff member, physician, student or volunteer looking for St. Joe’s Ethics Decision Making worksheet? This worksheet will help you analyze and effectively address ethical dilemmas
Q: Are you looking for support at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton when making difficult health care decisions? This brochure explains the Ethics Consultation service offered to our patients, their families, staff, physicians and volunteers.
Q: Are you looking for information about St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Ethical Decision Making Framework? This brochure outlines our principles and process for ethical decision making.
Q: Are you looking for more information on how to choose someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf? Download this brochure to learn more information about the power of attorney for personal care.
Q: Are you looking for information on what informed consent means, when it must be obtained or is not required? This brochure will provide you with important information about making health care decisions.
Q: Are you looking for information on how to determine when a person is capable of making healthcare decisions for him/herself? This brochure explains capacity assessment and when you need to involve a capacity assessor.
Q: Are you looking for information on how to make sure your future health care choices will be respected? This brochure explains the importance of advance care planning.
Q: Do you know what the ethical and legal basis for acting as a Substitute Decision-maker is in Ontario? This material would be very helpful if you needed to serve as a Substitute Decision-maker, such as a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.
Q: Decisions around Tube Feeding can be extremely difficult for many, either for themselves or for a loved one. Please refer to this booklet for clear, in-depth information to ensure that you make the right choices given your specific circumstances.