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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Clinical education of ethicists: the role of a clinical ethics fellowship

Paula Chidwick123*, Karen Faith14, Dianne Godkin15 and Laurie Hardingham67

Author Affiliations

1 University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, Ontario, Canada

2 Trillium Health Centre, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

3 William Osler Health Centre, Brampton, Ontario, Canada

4 Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

5 Centre for Clinical Ethics (a shared service of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph's Health Centre and St. Michael's Hospital), Toronto, Ontario, Canada

6 St. Joseph's Healthcare, London, Ontario, Canada

7 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario

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BMC Medical Ethics 2004, 5:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-5-6

Published: 8 November 2004



Although clinical ethicists are becoming more prevalent in healthcare settings, their required training and education have not been clearly delineated. Most agree that training and education are important, but their nature and delivery remain topics of debate. One option is through completion of a clinical ethics fellowship.


In this paper, the first four fellows to complete a newly developed fellowship program discuss their experiences. They describe the goals, structure, participants and activities of the fellowship. They identify key elements for succeeding as a clinical ethicist and sustaining a clinical ethics program. They critically reflect upon the challenges faced in the program.


The one-year fellowship provided real-time clinical opportunities that helped them to develop the necessary knowledge and skills, gain insight into the role and scope of practice of clinical ethicists and hone valuable character traits.


The fellowship enabled each of the fellows to assume confidently and competently a position as a clinical ethicist upon completion.