UnityPoint Health - Meriter - Ethics Committee
UnityPoint Health - Madison

Ethics Committee

General Information

An ethical dilemma arises when there is tension between loyalties, rights, duties, or values – all good in themselves, but not always possible to satisfy. Sometimes the value of preserving life conflicts with other values, such as respecting a patient's wishes, relieving suffering, staying financially solvent, and assuring equal access to healthcare.

These and other questions require that medical, ethical, legal and interpersonal factors be considered. The complexity of these issues often necessitates a collaborative approach.

The Ethics Committee was formed to aid in conflict resolution and help patients, families, physicians, and other healthcare providers make decisions when ethical dilemmas arise. Education of the UnityPoint Health – Meriter community and beyond is another goal of the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee sponsors an ethics conference each fall.

Requesting an Ethics Consult

For patients, their families or clinicians who wish to request an ethics consult, please contact the Ethics Committee in one of the following ways.

  1. On weekdays, you may contact the Office of Continuing Professional Development at (608) 417-6386.
  2. Directly contact the Ethics Committee Chair Dr. Heather Certain or the Vice-Chair of the Ethics Committee ICU Nurse Manager Mary Henman at (608) 417-6115 or by page through the hospital operator.
  3. During weekends or nights, contact the NAC at beeper 129-0151.


Contact the Office of Continuing Professional Development at (608) 417-6386 to request copies of the following:

  • A Process for Resolving Ethical Dilemmas
  • Guidelines Regarding Decisions to Withhold, Use or Withdraw Life-Sustaining Treatment
  • List of Annual Ethics Conference Recordings

Annual Ethics Grand Rounds and Conferences

UnityPoint Health – Meriter 2015 Fall Ethics Conference 

"Lost in Transition: Pathways for Ethical Communication in an Ever-changing Healthcare Environment"

Speakers: Kevin T. Powell, MD, PhD, FAAP and John W. Beasley, MD

Nov. 7, 2014: 24th Annual UnityPoint Health – Meriter Ethics Conference

"Patient or Clinician: Who Calls the Shots? Moving Forward in an Age of Consumerism"

Videos funded by the Meriter Foundation

Keynote Speakers:

Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, PhD

Assistant Professor, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy,
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Louis Butler, Jr.

Attorney, Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP, Milwaukee, WI
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice

May 16, 2014: "Debunking the Myths Around Capacity and Guardianship"


    Martha Rolli, MD, psychiatrist;
    Anne Hartwig, JD, PhD, attorney & UnityPoint Health – Meriter Ethics Committee Member;
    Cate Campisi, APNP (adult psychiatry); Kathleen Ziemba, Social Work Manager & Ethics Committee Member


  1. Differentiate how patients' lack of capacity or competency affects clinical practice;
  2. Clarify when patients may be treated or detained against their wishes

[Note: NO AMA PRA Category 1TM credits will be awarded for the viewing this recording]

Ethics Committee Facts

  • The Ethics Committee membership is broad based, including physicians, nurses, attorneys, social workers, clergy and community members.
  • The Ethics Committee's decisions are advisory, not binding.
  • The Ethics Committee is available to all patients, their families, the UnityPoint Health – Meriter Medical Staff, and other members of the patient's care team.
  • The Ethics Committee is a member of the Medical Ethics Committee Network (MECN) at the Medical College of Wisconsin's Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities.

Useful Documents and Links

The Medical College of Wisconsin's Geriatric Education Teams (GETs) authored and published Geriatrics Fast Facts as a resource for clinicians. Topics on the site include Assessing Delirium, Diagnosing Dementia in Acutely Ill Elderly Patients, and Assessment of Fall Risk Etiology.

A Process for Resolving Ethical Dilemmas