Current Status of Bioethics at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Current Status of Bioethics at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Currently, the Center is a resource to the members of the medical and dental staff, house staff, nursing, hospital employees, MedStar Health Research Institute Committee, and Institutional Reviews Boards, and the community at-large. The department's responsibilities include: consultation in clinical and research practice, coordination of continuing education programs in bioethics, development and critique of institutional hospital policy, and the development and implementation of independent research on biomedical issues.

The Center administers a 35-member multidisciplinary Bioethics committee which has 3 subcommittees; policy, education, and consultation. A comprehensive consultation service is in place with a team on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Center provides training courses for residents and other health care practitioners at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. The Center's staff has served as consultants for establishing Bioethics programs at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network, NIH (National Institutes of Health), MedStar Visiting Nurses Association, Greater Southeast Hospital, MedLink Nursing Care Facility, and other institutions both locally in Washington DC and the greater metropolitan area, as well as other institutions in the United States.  The John J. Lynch, MD Center for Ethics with the support of its Policy subcommittee, has helped to develop several key bioethics related standard practices and guidelines for MedStar Washington Hospital Center. A few of these practices include but are not limited to: Advance Directives, Guidelines for the Implementation of Do Not Resuscitate Orders, Withholding or Withdrawing Treatment; Refusal of Blood/Blood product transfusions; Guidelines and Protocols for the Management of potentially Viable Mid-Trimester fetus/Infant and Statements on the Management of Handicapped Infants.


The mission of the John J. Lynch, MD Center for Ethics at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is to help clinicians and other hospital professionals meet a standard of excellence in the care of our patients through education, training, consultation, policy development, and research in clinical bioethics. Additionally, when appropriate, we address the ethical concerns of our patients and families directly.


The Center is a resource to the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Bioethics committee. The committee is not a decision-making body; rather, its function is to provide objective analysis of the ethically relevant considerations involved in making judgments about professional practice, patient care, and institutional policy. The Bioethics committee and its staff are on-call 24 hours to help resolve any ethical issue that may arise the hospital, such as:

  • Advance care planning/Advance Directives
  • Decision making for patients who are no longer able to speak for themselves/Guardianships
  • End-of-life issues (Do Not Resuscitate orders, withholding or withdrawing treatment, palliative care.)
  • Maternal/Fetal Conflicts
  • Informed consent/informed refusal
  • Privacy and confidentiality/Disclosure of patient health information