BACKGROUNDIn November 2004 an evaluation of the clinical ethics committees at Norwegian hospital trusts was completed. This study is a follow up study on the part of that project which explored the development and existence of ethical guidelines at Norwegian hospital trusts.
MATERIAL AND METHODQuestionnaires were sent to all the hospital trusts, exploring what kind of ethical guidelines existed, a person responsible for the guideline, date of origin, evaluation, and availability on the web.
RESULTS24 hospital trusts out of 32 answered the questionnaires (75%). Generally the hospital trusts reported limited knowledge about the development and existence of ethical guidelines within their hospitals. Many of the hospital trusts reported that that they will attempt to get an overview of the existing ethical guidelines in the near future, although this is reported as a time consuming task. Over 20 different types of ethical guidelines where reported. The most frequently reported guidelines are about resuscitation, confidentiality, organ donation, interaction with pharmaceutical industry, autopsy and research ethics. When reported, the date of origin is within the last six years. Few guidelines are available on the web.
CONCLUSIONMany types of ethical guidelines are developed quite recently within Norwegian hospitals, and that there is a lack of knowledge about their development and existence. The guidelines most frequently reported from the hospitals are on topics covered by national guidelines or emphasized in health care legislation. Future research should explore the quality and implementation of these guidelines.