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The Policies and Research Subcommittee of the Delaware Valley Ethics Committee Network (DVECN) has completed its first major project, the development of Sample Policy Packets. These are designed to provide an educational resource for our members who are just beginning to write policies on specific topics or are revising previously adopted policies.

We now have four Sample Policy Packets, on withholding/ withdrawing life-sustaining treatment "Do Not Resuscitate" orders, organ donation, and HIV infection. Each packet contains several sample policies on the topic, a cover sheet that highlights important issues, and a list of references on the particular topic.

These packets were developed in response to a survey of sixty-five hospitals that participate in die DVECN conducted by our Subcommittee on Education. The instrument suggested that member committees found it especially difficult to write effective and ethically sound institutional policies. Moreover, many committees at different health care facilities indicated that they were working on the same issues, yet each was attempting to write its policy "from scratch" in isolation from the others. It seemed that they could benefit by having some idea of what a policy looked like, what factors other committees deemed important, and how specific or general to make their policies to ensure they would be effective.

The subcommittee addressed this perceived need by soliciting policies from local health care institutions. Our member committees responded generously. The DVECN did not endorse any policy or group of policies, but chose those to be included in the packets to represent a range of viewpoints on a topic. We did not assess the contributed policies for overall quality or legality, believing this to be the responsibility of each institution. We then edited the policies so as not to reveal the identity of the contributing hospitals, and combined them in topically arranged packets. These were made available to members for ten dollars each to cover the cost of printing and handling.

The packets are proving useful in at least three ways. First, in writing a new policy, one sample can be selected and used for an initial draft. Although no policy will completely meet the needs of another facility, it is helpful to a committee to have something on paper at the outset to initiate discussion and give some sense of which issues are important Second, having a variety of policies in each packet allows those writing or revising an existing policy to compare viewpoints on an issue, locate sources of potential controversy, and grasp how other committees have resolved difficult dilemmas. Finally, the cover sheet describing controversial issues and the reference list encourage committees to seek additional resources independently and to create policies that are tailor made" for their own institution.
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Title Annotation:Delaware Valley Ethics Committee Network, Policies and Research Subcommittee project
Author:Fleetwood, Janet
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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