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|Walter Limehouse, Jr., M.D.|
Associate professor of Emergency Medicine
Specialties: Emergency medicine, ethics, palliative care, end-of-life treatment options
Walter Limehouse, M.D., specializes in exploring the ethical questions that physicians, patients and families face. He helps family members make decisions about loved ones who can no longer express their wishes in his role as a consultant with the Medical University Hospital’s Ethics Consultation Service.
“We help people talk through disagreements about a patient’s care, and if they have to make end-of-life decisions, we try to provide an ethical framework to help them gather the facts and make the best decisions possible for the patient,” Limehouse said. "A patient may be in an acute stage of illness where palliative care is the best course of action."
Palliative care involves a concern for general well being, including spiritual, psychological, social and physical comfort. The goal is to improve the patient's quality of life instead of focusing on curative therapy alone. Limehouse supports the national Choosing Wisely initiative, a campaign aimed at encouraging conversations between doctors and families about appropriate care based on individual situations.
Limehouse has a master's degree in bioethics from the Medical College of Wisconsin in addition to his medical degree. He has a dual role at MUSC as well. Not only is he an ethics consultant, he's also an assistant professor of emergency medicine.
Limehouse said medical ethics go beyond individual issues. They can guide decision-making following a community crisis such as a hurricane.
“In what we call ‘ordinary triage,’ we focus on the individual patient we’re treating,” Limehouse said. “But during a disaster, the focus may shift to the community and the survival of the greatest number of people. We have to be ready to make ethically-appropriate decisions.”
But it's the one-on-one consultations that require his attention on a regular basis at MUSC.
"We'll meet with any family member who needs help making ethical decisions about a loved one's care," Limehouse said.