From time to time, patients/residents/participants, their families, and health care providers are faced with difficult medical and quality of life choices to make, involving moral values, beliefs, traditions, and preferences.  Ethics in healthcare 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 healthcare professionals have to their patients.
Through its Ethics Committee, St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph (SJHCG) is committed to assisting the SJHCG community in developing an understanding of ethical issues and to enhance decision making skills.  This is achieved by providing education on various topics and providing timely consultation to staff and physicians on the process of dealing with specific ethical concerns.  The membership of the committee is made up of interdisciplinary staff members that reflect a diversity of professional groups and service areas.  A Bioethicist for the St. Joseph’s Health System is actively involved with the committee and ethics consultations. 

Some examples of ethical dilemmas include:

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

To find out more about St. Joseph’s Ethics Program, contact:

Nancy Gibbs-Keithlin, Social Worker, 519-824-6000 ext. 4315 or
Libby Little, Senior Director Clinical Services, 519-824-6000 ext. 4235 or

As part of the committee’s goal to build capacity and provide education and resources, here are a series of pamphlets that have been developed to provide helpful information related to decision making:

Advance Care Planning

Capacity Assessment

Informed Consent to Treatment

Power of Attorney for Personal Care

Substitute Decision Making