Clarifying and Expanding the Role of Narrative in Ethics Consultation

Andrew Childress, Susannah W. Lee, Jeff S. Matsler, Jeffrey S. Farroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Understanding a patient's story is integral to providing ethically supportable and practical recommendations that can improve patient care. Important skills include how to elicit an individual's story, how to weave different narrative threads together, and how to assist the care team, patients, and caregivers to resolve difficult decisions or moral dilemmas. Narrative approaches to ethics consultation deepen dialogue and stakeholders' engagement to reveal important values, preferences, and beliefs that may prove critical in resolving care challenges. Recognizing barriers to narrative inquiry, such as patients who are unable or refuse to share their story, is also important. In this article we offer specific steps and guidelines that ethicists can follow to systematically elicit and construct patients' stories. We provide a case example to illustrate how a narrative approach to ethics consultation illuminates salient ethical issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. We argue that this approach should be part of every consultant's tool kit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-251
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of clinical ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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