IPE Initiative

Students explore decision-making, ethical issues at Mock Ethics Committee

Talk about intense!

In late October, the IU Bloomington Schools of Nursing, Social Work, Medicine, and Law joined forces to offer students from all four schools an interprofessional learning experience called the Mock Hospital Ethics Committee (MHEC).

When making decisions about health care, patients, families, physicians, and other health care professionals often face difficult, potentially life-changing situations that raise ethically-challenging questions about what would be the most appropriate course of action. Ethics committees offer assistance in addressing ethical issues that arise in patient care and facilitate sound decision-making that respects participants' values, interests, and concerns.

The Mock Ethics Committee: Fr. Patrick Hyde, Dr. Jody Lyneé Madeira, James L. Whitlatch, Tammi Nelson, Lori Persohn, Cheryl Welp, Rebecca Serfass, Dr. Amy H. Wonder, Ed Hinds, and Dr. Lee McKinley Photo credit: Chi Huang Lee 李

The MHEC was developed in 2015 to give students the opportunity to observe the application of ethics in practice. MHEC was originally developed for IU SON, but has grown over the years, with this year's committee integrating evidence-based practice to help guide the decision-making process and almost filling Wegmiller Auditorium with a near-capacity crowd of undergraduate- and graduate-level students.

In addition to faculty members from the four schools, our Mock Ethics Committee was composed of men and women from a wide variety of disciplines and included a pharmacist, a physician, a pastor, an attorney, and representatives from IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians, IU Health Bloomington Hospital, and Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper. 

Our mock committee examined the ethical issues arising from the treatment of two hypothetical patients:

  • 58-year-old Joe, whose lack of health insurance, a regular doctor, and a place to live have made it nearly impossible for the hospital to develop a plan for him to fully recover from his chronic respiratory problems.
  • 24-year-old Lin, a severely intellectually disabled young woman, whose aggressive mood swings and self-harming behaviors, intensified by her menstrual cycle, have made her a danger to herself and her family.

Debriefing discussions that followed these cases focused on such issues as social justice, parental consent, homelessness, patient accountability, church dogma, patients’ rights, court orders, and much more, as we discovered the many issues hospitals, doctors, and other health care professionals wrestle with when providing quality patient care.

Each session was then followed by a question-and-answer session, where students examined the reasons behind the positions that committee members took when addressing the needs of these two hypothetical patients. We were so proud of our IU SON, Bloomington students, whose questions for the committee were insightful, thought-provoking and (at times) unexpected!

“The Mock Ethics Committee was a valuable opportunity for our students to learn from community experts,” says Dr. Angela Opsahl, who – along with Dr. Amy Wonder – coordinated the event. “I received very positive feedback about the mock committee from many of my S474 students.”

Our students were thoroughly engaged in the debriefing discussions that followed the Mock Ethics Committee's presentations, asking questions that were insightful, though-provoking, and, at times, unexpected. Photo credit: Chi Huang Lee 李