A number of converging factors influenced and directed the development of the Nova Scotia Health Ethics Network (NSHEN). Increasing attention to ethics in accreditation, for example, was putting pressure on District Health Authorities and the IWK Health Centre to find appropriate ways to meet these standards. At the same time, the Department of Health (now the Department of Health and Wellness) expressed interest in developing ethics-informed decision-making frameworks for key projects. And, correspondingly, the Dalhousie University Department of Bioethics was receiving an increasing number of requests for ethics support which were beginning to exceed its capacity to respond.

In 2005, these converging factors lead to the establishment of a provincial working group with representatives from the District Health Authorities, IWK Health Centre and the Department of Health and Wellness. Dr. Christy Simpson and Dr. Jeff Kirby with the Department of Bioethics were invited by the working group to develop a model for provincial ethics support. It was clearly acknowledged by all that a workable model would establish common and consistent approaches to ethics, where appropriate, and be able to reflect the common and unique contexts within the province.

In June 2007, the Council of CEOs, the Deputy Minister for the Department of Health (now the Department of Health and Wellness), and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine for the Department of Bioethics signed a Memorandum of Understanding which created the Nova Scotia Health Ethics Network. As such, the network represents a unique collaboration in the province between academia, the health regions, and the Department of Health.

In November 2007, the NSHEN Advisory Council was formally established, with Lewis Bedford as the Chair. This signified the effective transition of NSHEN from concept, through implementation, and ultimately, to operations, effective January 3, 2008.

In 2012, NSHEN’s first 5 year MOU expired. After discussions with all health districts, IWK Health Centre, DoHW and Dalhousie University, NSHEN’s MOU was renewed for another 5 years.