An app to better understand the Health Ethics Guide

Understanding and applying the Health Ethics Guide, a reference document in the Catholic health field, is not always easy. The new Health Ethics Guide Module app hopes to help users decode and master the Guide.

On May 16, Covenant Health, an Alberta-based Catholic health organization, launched a free app it had developed for decision-makers and Catholic health workers—the Health Ethics Guide Module—at a Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) conference in Banff.

The app’s objective: to explain the seven chapters of the current edition of the Guide, published in February 2013, through feedback from, and concrete examples of use by, various players in the Catholic health sector across Canada.

Gordon Self, Covenant Health’s Chief Mission and Ethics Officer and initiator of the app, explains. “The application is intended as a practical learning tool for all those involved in Catholic health care, from bedside employees to decision-makers on boards of directors.”

Covenant Health first developed two learning modules, one for caregivers and the other for administrators, in May 2018. “But not all organizations have the same learning system, so our modules would’ve been difficult to share. With an app, each organization can use the content the way it wants. There’s more flexibility.”

The app offers interviews with several people in the CHAC network, each invited to speak on a specific point of the Guide, in English or French. Daniel Lussier, CEO of the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba (CHCM), is one of the speakers.

Self: “We had targeted questions for everyone. We wanted advice on various complex issues in the Catholic health sector, such as how to support staff, ethical and moral traditions in Catholic health, clinical challenges that may arise, everyday challenges, early- and late-life issues and how to deal with them, etc., and how these individuals used the Guide to support their decision-making, a tool for better understanding our Catholic identity.”

“Having people talk about the Guide’s content through personal experiences helps to understand it. It brings a concrete, human dimension, which people can more easily relate to.”

Moreover, the app offers case studies to practise applying the Guide.

Self: “For health care workers, the app is also a source of reassurance that their decisions are the right ones, and of justification for what they do. For example, it’s reported that the tradition of abandoning treatment when a disease is too advanced was developed 500 years ago by Dominican monks in Spain, so the practice is completely ethical.”

While the app will provide answers to the thousands of Catholic health workers and administrators in Canada who will use it, it has also been useful to its creators.

Self explains. “The app’s creation generated a lot of thought among its contributors, which has deepened their own understanding of the Guide, so not only has the final product been a success, so has the process!”

For the time being, the Health Ethics Guide Module app is available in English only, but the CHCM has already expressed to Covenant Health an interest in developing a French version. Covenant Health is very open to the idea and stands ready to provide all necessary materials to the CHCM.

Photo: Self, Gordon

Compliments: Covenant Health