Reagan Gale, director of clinical psychology at Health and Social Services, photographed for the Yukon News in 2014, says bioethics is the study of ethical principles regarding complex health issues. The Department of Health and Social Services is looking for a consultant to review bioethical resources and recommend redesigns. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)

Yukon Government issues tender for bioethical resource review

The Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) is looking for a consultant to review bioethical resources and recommend redesigns.

The department released this tender on May 29 with bids due on June 18. Dr. Reagan Gale, director of clinical psychology, spoke to the News about the tender on June 4.

Bioethics, she said, is the study of ethical principles regarding complex health issues.

These principles can be applied broadly throughout the department and aim to help resolve complex situations where multiple ethical principles could be at odds with each other.

“By their very nature, ethical dilemmas are unique and highly context-driven,” Gale said. “What might be the best decision in one situation may not be the best in another similar situation, based on differences in context. That is part of the reason that these types of dilemmas can’t be addressed with policy alone.”

She said the consultant will meet with members of HSS to learn about specific program needs. The goal is to match available resources to needs. The consultant will review literature to see what other HSS departments are doing in other jurisdictions.

Gale said that the needs of the staff running the emergency shelter could be different than those of the personnel running a nursing program or child and family services.

“I think it is important to get a broad understanding of what the different needs are,” Gale said.

Gale was unable to predict what issues could come during the process.

“Our staff do an exceptional job and navigate some really tricky situations already,” Gale said.

She explained this study is looking to provide more support for the staff so they can continue with their work. She said they deal with complex issues and this will help staff deal with people, adding that complex issues make the work interesting.

She gave some examples of bioethical issues.

First was the principles of non-malfeasance and fidelity conflicting. She gave the scenario of a loved one who suffers from dementia asking to speak with someone who has died. The fidelity principle calls for being honest in that situation, while the non-malfeasance direction may involve distracting the individual to avoid having to remind him or her about the death.

Another example involves justice and autonomy.

“This dilemma is common in communal living environments, such as in group homes and long term care,” Gale said.

Someone’s right to self-determination (autonomy) can conflict with the rights of others in the shared living environment. She gave the example of someone with hearing issues turning up a TV so he or she can hear it but the noise disturbs other in the area.

Equity and equality are two principals that collide when talking about the allocation of resources.

In this one, the choice is between giving everyone the same number of resources (equality) or giving people what they need, knowing this means someone may get more than other (equity).

There will be a report once the consultant completes his or her work. It will contain, the review, needs assessment and recommendations to create a sustainable bioethical policy that meets the government’s needs.

The report is expected by the end of December.

Contact Gord Fortin at

Yukon health and social services

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