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Bioethics Consult Service

The St. Jude Bioethics Consult Service offers guidance if difficult patient care or treatment decisions arise while you are at St. Jude. 

Mother and daughter in background of person filling out form

The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital community shares a mission—to advance cures and help prevent life-threatening childhood diseases. We carry out this mission using research and treatment.

The hospital’s Bioethics Consult Service offers guidance if difficult patient care or treatment decisions arise while you are at St. Jude. Our bioethics consultants do not make decisions. They are available to discuss ethical questions related to St. Jude policies or research. They work with patients and families, as well as with St. Jude staff and researchers.

What are bioethics?

Bioethics focuses on understanding and resolving issues that come up during medical care or biomedical research. The goal of bioethics is to help people with different values and goals make decisions about health, health care, technology, or related topics.

  • Clinical ethics is a type of bioethics. Clinical ethicists help to settle issues that are hard to understand or cause strong emotions. They work with patients, families, and the health care team. They help identify, analyze, and resolve specific ethical problems.
  • Research ethics is another branch of bioethics. The ethical guidelines used for human research help to protect research volunteers. They also help make sure that studies follow rules for valid scientific studies.

Services we provide

Any patient, family member, or St. Jude staff member may ask for an ethics consultation (consult). If you ask for one, your identity can remain private. But the process works best when the people and issues involved are talked about openly.

Bioethics consultants can help when:

  • You or your child is unsure about the course of care
  • You, your child, or the medical team disagree on a medical decision
  • You feel great concern about a medical decision
  • You need help deciding whether to allow your child to take part in research

The hospital’s Bioethics Consult Service provides ethics support to the entire St. Jude community.

Your bioethics team

Our bioethics consultants are specially trained to help with issues related to children, medical care, and research. They are experienced in working with families, health care providers, and researchers. They also work to help improve understanding and awareness of ethical issues related to children, health care, and research.

No fees are charged for this service. All consults are confidential.

The St. Jude Ethics Committee oversees the Bioethics Consult Service. Committee members review the services we provide on a regular schedule. The ethics committee includes St. Jude employees from various departments and community members.

What to expect during a bioethics consult

Our consultants work directly with the person who asks for their services. They will not make medical decisions.

When you request a consultation, the ethics consultant on call will contact you and ask for basic information. A consultant will respond to most requests within 1 week. Urgent requests receive a response within 24 hours. 

The ethics consultants will:

  • Value your relationship with the child, whether you are a parent, family member, or health care team member
  • Let you share your concerns about your child’s medical care
  • Listen and try to understand your views and values
  • Identify and clear up misunderstandings
  • Help you think through demanding situations
  • Find option you might not have considered

The consultant may also:

  • Invite others directly involved in your child’s care to share their views
  • Bring everyone who is involved in a decision together for an open discussion
  • Help each person see options from the other person’s viewpoint
  • Share their recommendations with you and others who are part of the discussion
  • Offer advice and education

Learn more 

To request a bioethics consult:

  • Email 

  • Call the hospital operator at 901-595-3300 and ask for the Bioethics Consult Service

Other resources