Health Sciences Building, 155 College Street, Room 106
  • April 20, 2016 from 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Speaker: Ruby Rajendra Shanker, MBBS, MHSc, Fellow, Clinical & Organizational Bioethics, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto

Healthcare practice is rife with uncertainty. We frequently ponder upon the nature of moral uncertainty, yet clinical uncertainty tends to be more ubiquitous in practice, particularly within specialties like pediatrics and psychiatry. Our response to clinical uncertainty can have ethical implications on decision making, influence inter-professional team dynamics, and most importantly shape our interactions with patients and families. Accordingly, as reflective practitioners of patient-centred care, familiarity with the nature of clinical uncertainty is crucial. I hypothesize that while our training as healthcare professionals provides us with the insight to theoretically acknowledge clinical uncertainty, we may not be as well-equipped to embrace its true nature at the bedside. As practicing healthcare ethicists (PHEs), we focus on acquiring skills to navigate the ethical implications of moral uncertainty. Yet I suggest that we may not be as attentive in acquiring skills to support clinicians navigate through clinical uncertainty. In this seminar, I invite clinicians and PHEs to collectively reflect upon the nature of clinical uncertainty in healthcare practice. We will briefly examine the evolution of clinical uncertainty through the history of medicine, and discuss some of the ethical implications for practice from the perspectives of clinicians and PHEs. Finally, we will explore some strategies to mitigate challenges, and for living with clinical uncertainty.