For many years there has been a committee at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh to review research proposals to assure that the rights of children are protected. In 1974, its composition was changed and its mission broadened to include consultation and discussion of ethical issues in clinical care. The committee is called the Human Rights Committee to reflect this mission. Medical ethical consultations are performed by rotating on-call teams consisting of a physician and a nonphysician who are members of the committee. Selected cases from 48 consultations are presented to demonstrate the process and to illustrate some of the questions that were addressed. The clinical diagnoses were varied, but the commonest were congenital malformations. The most frequent reason for consultation was to question the advisability of assisted ventilation (27 cases), but other reasons concerned definitive surgery, intravenous hyper-alimentation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and tracheostomy. Consultations are always optional and advisory. The recommendations of the consultation team are subsequently reviewed by the entire Human Rights Committee. The service has been well received by the medical staff. This method has some of the advantages of both the hospital ethics committee and the single consultant. Therefore, it should be considered when planning how to deal with these important problems.

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