“Policy … has an irreducibly moral dimension insofar as it involves a decision about how to act toward affected others who are not involved (or only indirectly involved) in actually deciding what to do about an identified problem”[1]. This ‘deciding for affected others’ and the significant implications of health policy for persons and society as-a-whole, make it a moral endeavor, and those who participate in it, moral actors.

In the health arena, policy provides concrete direction as to how we manage the crucially important moral goods of health and health care. Within health care organizations, policies direct how health care providers, staff and patients treat each other; how patients are cared for; and how, and to whom, limited health resources are delivered.

NSHEN provides ethics support to health care organizations and government for the development and review of health care policies with strong ethics elements. A dynamic ethics review template has been developed to assist members of ethics committees and reference groups to perform comprehensive ethics policy reviews.

NSHEN encourages ‘from the ground up’ policy development through the use of policy working groups that are inclusive of participants from all the primary stakeholders. In this ethics-informed policy development process, the working group authors and stewards the policy from its inception through the solicitation and inclusion of appropriate secondary stakeholder feedback to its final approval and implementation within the organization.

[1] Malone RE. Policy as Product. The Hastings Center Report, 1999; 29(3): 16-22.