Clinical ethics

Ethics is about thinking critically on how we live and act

This includes:

  • analyzing how our values affect our behaviours,
  • identifying what is good or right in a particular situation, and
  • giving reasons why some choices may be better than others.

Clinical Ethics concerns morally sensitive issues in the context of patient care and the relationships between the people involved.

The primary questions that Clinical Ethics deals with are:

  • What should we do? (What actions or steps are good or right?)
  • Why should we do it? (What are our reasons, and what do they mean?)
  • How should we do it? (The method of our response, or what plan is most ethical?)

This is a process we should all participate in, because ethical decisions are made by everyone on a daily basis.

Clinical Ethics Resources

At St. Joseph's there is a full-time clinical ethicist on staff. A clinical ethicist is a person who has the education and training to help patients, families, Substitute Decision Makers, health care providers, or other involved parties address uncertainty or conflict regarding value-laden issues that emerge in health care. A clinical ethicist does not make decisions, but rather acts as a resource to the decision makers in any given situation. At each site, there is also a team of people knowledgeable about ethics and available to help as needed.

In striving for excellence in care, education and research, Clinical Ethics plays a critical, collaborative and facilitative role. Ethical practice requires us to listen openly, participate in respectful dialogue and work toward innovative solutions to ethical problems.

What Resources does Clinical Ethics offer?
  • Assistance with the identification and discernment of ethical issues
  • The provision of ethics consultation services
  • Ethics education for teams, units and programs, as well as for the community we serve
  • Help with development of policies which have ethical implications
  • Assistance with ethical issues related to biomedical research with human subjects and research in clinical ethics
  • Organizational Ethics resources

The plan for Clinical Ethics was developed within the context of the Mission, Vision and Values of St. Joseph's Health Care London within which we serve with: Respect, Excellence and Compassion.

Click here for more resources

Beliefs about Catholic Health Ethics

At St. Joseph’s, we use the Health Ethics Guide published by the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) as our code of ethics.

This guide is an easy-to-read reference to the fundamental values and principles used in ethical decision-making. It presents a moral vision reflecting Roman Catholic teaching on health ethics as it applies to the complex ethical issues of contemporary society. It covers pertinent aspects pertaining to those receiving care from health and social service organizations and the moral obligations of those who govern and administer such organizations.

The publication is relevant for caregivers, staff, leaders and all those interested in sound ethical reflection. The Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) together with Covenant Health (Alberta) have produced an app (free download to your smartphone) particularly for board of directors and sponsors of Catholic health care but relevant to a wider audience. The full text of the Health Ethics Guide is included in the references.

Contact Us: Our team

Clinical Ethicist
Marleen Van Laethem, BSc, MHSc

Phone: 519 646-6100 ext. 42251
Email: @email

Administrative Assistant
Rose Freitas

Phone:  519-646-6100 ext. 64835
Email: @email

Ethics Leadership Council

Ruth Bullas
Kim Farrow
Deb Gibson
Dale Nikkel
Karen Perkin
Ann Turcotte
Kyley Vandelaar
Marleen Van Laethem

Health Care Ethics Committee of the Board

Victoria Smye