Women’s College Hospital’s Ethics Program

Contact the bioethicist

Patients, families and staff are welcome to contact WCH’s bioethicist and the Ethics Program directly. Patients and family members can also ask hospital staff to contact the Program on their behalf. While open discussion among all those involved is encouraged, confidential consultations are also availableTo contact the WCH bioethicist, please contact

Ruby Shanker

If Ruby is away, please contact:

Ann Heesters

The Program offers a consultation service for hospital staff, patients and their family/friends who would like assistance with decisions or questions that are ethically difficult, complex or unclear.

Some examples related to patients and family or friends could be:

“My dad’s physician has asked me whether I will be his substitute decision maker for treatment decisions because right now, dad’s too ill too decide for himself. I’d like information about what I’d have to do.”

“I’d appreciate someone helping me figure out whether it is ethically better for me to tell my adult kids about my new diagnosis right now… or whether i should wait awhile”

Some examples related to staff’s work could be:

“I’d like some advice to ensure this proposed policy clearly identifies or talks about the important ethical aspects of this medical practice.”

“Our team would like some guidance handling ethical values that seem to disagree with each other. We want to e4nsure that what we’re working on with our patient makes good sense ethically”

Bioethicists are professionals who have been educated and specially trained to identify and help understand ethical problems. They may have education in philosophy, law, theology or one of the various health professions, with additional special training in bioethics. They do not provide the right answer or tell you what to do, but can help you think through difficult ethical decisions.

The Bioethicist serves on the hospital’s Research Ethics Board and, from time to time, may supervise healthcare students. They assist with policy development and review as well as offer ethics education to health care practitioners. Educational formats can vary depending on the audience’s needs. For instance, interdisciplinary or discipline specific rounds, group or individual discussions, and formal presentations. All hospital staff and students are invited to make use of these services.