This book was written to present the results of the concerted action called Ethical Function in Hospital Ethics Committees funded by the European Union in the context of the BIOMED II programme. Ethics committees as a principle - national, clinical or for research - do appear as quite innovative in the hospital environment. They offer an opportunity, deep in the clinical practice, to think about wide and subtle issues of medicine, throughout a variety of discourses coming from philosophy, social sciences, law, and laymen as well. Some people consider these committees as a useless complication in medical decision process, which adds a further institutionalised structure in an area where bureaucracy is already overwhelming. Other people, however, hope that they will contribute to open a public realm where science in action might be a matter of concern and reflections. This would guarantee that the discussion about medical and particularly hospital problems should take into account the point of view of the patients in its full and human dimension. By reviving the age-old concern of humanisation of medicine, these hospital ethics committees might be capable of initiating an in-depth transformation of medical practice. The Ethical Function in Hospital Ethics Committees project aimed to observe and record the reality happening in these structures and what potential they hold. The book includes an overview of the situation of hospital ethics committees in the different european countries involved in the network, a set of contributions that address more specific issues that have been discussed during three international workshops and finally recommendations about possible organisational and/or legal measures to be taken in order to stimulate the practical involvement of ethics in hospital practice at a european level. Everybody interested or sensitive to the development of ethics reflection in hospital will benefit from the information in this book, healthcare practitionners, philosophers, sociologists as well as policy makers and ... citizens.