National Institutes of Health Clinical Center

Clinical & Research Ethics Services

Consult Service

The Department of Bioethics provides a Bioethics Consultation Service, the goal of which is to provide analysis and facilitate discussion about a range of ethical issues that can arise in caring for patient subjects or during the course of research conducted at the Clinical Center. The Consultation Service is open to anyone with an ethical question or concern, including investigators, subjects, families, physicians, nurses, administrators, social workers, and pastoral care providers. Anyone who works at the NIH or participates in research at the NIH Clinical Center can request a consult. Consultations are usually performed by a small consult team comprised of members of the Department of Bioethics and members of the Clinical Center Ethics Committee and (on exceptional occasions) by the full Ethics Committee. Since the Clinical Center is a research hospital, many of our consults focus on research ethics questions (e.g. enrolling research participants, balancing research and clinical care, research with vulnerable populations, etc.).

To call a consult

Clinical Center Ethics Committee

The CCEC is comprised of about 25 people representing multiple disciplines, including physicians, nurses, lawyers, patient representatives, social workers, clergy, and community members. The CCEC participates in the Bioethics Consultation Service; the committee as a whole is also available for ongoing case consultation, and engages in retrospective case review. The CCEC also assists in the crafting of hospital policies relevant to bioethics. The Bioethics Consultation Service reports its consultative activities to the CC Ethics Committee. In turn, the Ethics Committee reports to the Clinical Center Medical Executive Committee.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

The National Institutes of Health has thirteen Institutional Review Boards, or IRBs, that review intramural protocols. A representative of the Department of Bioethics sits as a voting member on each of the intramural IRBs. These representatives include members of the staff of the department as well as others from the NIH or local community who have experience or training in the ethics of human subjects research.