Medical ethicists work in hospitals, research facilities and clinics to aid the staff in combining morality with science. Medical ethicists must have a master's degree or doctorate in health ethics as well as experience in the field for most positions. An ethicist's education consists of medical law courses, bioethics, religion, research analysis and the procedures for applying ethics to medical science. The median salary for a clinical ethicist is $65,740 as of November 2009, according to Salary.com.
Education of Staff
Medical ethicists provide education for hospital staff on ethics. The ethicist may work with small groups of medical students, residents and administrators on topics such as professionalism, biomedical ethics and patient care.
Medical ethicists advise hospital administrators on hospital policy. Ethicists examine proposed policies and determine the ethical issues related to the proposition. The ethicist typically works on ethics committees examining policy proposals and offering input to administration. Policies such as "do not resuscitate" (DNR) orders and the withdrawal of life support are the types of policies medical ethicists work with.
Research facilities employ medical ethicists to review the ethics of research studies and develop standards for the quality of the research. Ethicists ensure that research funding does not present a conflict of interest and that the quality of the data is not manipulated to meet the desired results of the facility.
Medical ethicists may review hospital cases to ensure that medical staff behaved ethically. Cases involving organ donation and terminal patients involve ethical issues for physicians and medical staff.
Ethicists evaluate the risk involved in new procedures and medications to patients and consult with physicians on the ethical and moral use of these procedures. The medical ethicist serves as a consultant on experimental procedures and medications.
Ethicists can work directly with patients, offering advice on living wills, DNRs, refusal of medical treatment, organ donations and problem pregnancies. Patients can request the advice and assistance of a medical ethicist to help with difficult medical decisions.