Is consent necessary prior to the initiation of a specific clinical ethics consultation? This is not a question that has received much attention despite the fact that the issue of consent is one of the earliest considerations associated with bioethics. Perhaps this is because of how clinical ethics consultation, as a formidable clinical practice, came into being. Specifically, although the place and time of its conception is not readily identifiable, it is not unreasonable to say it was born on March 31, 1976, when the New Jersey Supreme Court stated, in its Quinlan decision, that consultation would be necessary with “the hospital ‘Ethics Committee’ or like body of the institution in which Karen is then hospitalized. [And i]f that consultative body agrees that there is no reasonable possibility of Karen's ever emerging from her present comatose condition [then her] life-support system may be withdrawn.”
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