Modern health care increasingly faces ethical problems in relation to new technologies, costs and rationing and changing social values. An ageing population and an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases have led to difficult choices in allocation of limited resources. There is greater public awareness of ethical issues through media reporting and a greater demand for public accountability of health care professionals. Health care professionals need not only strive to give the best possible clinical care, but also have to consider the ethical dimensions of the care they provide. To ensure high ethical standards in patient care, individual health care professionals and health care institutions need support and advice.The author argues that clinical ethics committees serve that purpose.