Interprofessional Ethics Lab Examined Complexities in Brain Death

Oct 31, 2018

Interprofessional students worked collaboratively to apply ethics analysis tools to the healthcare decision-making process.

Healthcare ethics training most commonly occurs in professional silos; nurses learn with nurses, social workers with social workers, doctors with doctors, and so on.  This runs contrary to the practice of clinical bioethics, where it is well known that ethical deliberation is best accomplished with the input and participation of multiple professional perspectives.  On September 27, 2018 over 50 students and 10 faculty/clinicians gathered from across the health sciences for the first-ever Interprofessional (IP) Ethics Lab, which examined complexities in brain death.

Photo of participants discussing case at IP Ethics Lab event on September 27, 2018.

Participants discussing case at IP Ethics Lab event on September 27, 2018.

Professions present included medicine, pharmacy, social work, rehab medicine, nursing, public health and nutrition. Using a case-based and active learning format, clinical ethicists Gina Campbelia (Assistant Professor, Department of Bioethics and Humanities) and Tracy Brazg (Assistant Director, CHSIE) provided a brief history of clinical bioethics and the key principles of bioethics.  Then, UW internal medicine resident, Jay Brahmbhatt, led the students through a complicated case of a patient diagnosed as brain dead at Harborview Medical center.  Students were divided into small interprofessional groups, where they worked collaboratively as a team to apply ethics analysis tools to the healthcare decision-making process.  In particular, they grappled with the question of how a health care team should respond to a family member who rejects a brain death diagnosis.

Throughout the nearly two-hour event, conversations were buzzing in the room.  After the event concluded, several students remained in the room to ask questions, continue conversations, or convey enthusiasm about this innovative format for learning ethics.  Post session evaluations suggested that students appreciated the session as an opportunity to gain understanding into different professional perspectives.

The IP Ethics Lab was made possible with funding and support from CHSIE and the Bodemer Lecture Series fund within the Department of Bioethics and Humanities. Plans are underway to develop quarterly IP Ethics Lab gatherings throughout the academic year. For more information, please contact Tracy Brazg (