PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) - The Ethics Team for Pacific Partnership 2012 is working to assist medical providers and patients navigate the sometimes difficult ethical decisions.

Working aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), the team consists of five civilian and military personnel to provide guidelines and insight on how to address potentially difficult ethical considerations in healthcare.

Cmdr. Gregory Matwiyoff, chairman for the Ethics Committee, describes the group as a team of individuals with different views on culture, society and a different set of standards to make culturally and communally sound recommendations.

"We are embarking on something new, because we come to this part of the world with our own backgrounds and preconceived notions to try to help people," Matwiyoff said. "It is our job to work together to make a sound decision in the best interest of everyone; especially the patients."

Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Chao, vice president of the Ethics Committee, said the committee rarely makes the final decision, but instead is used to dissolve disagreements and provide a different point of view when a critical decision must be made for a patient who may be incapacitated, by deliberating with each other to come up with the best solution.

"Eastern culture focuses their health care mainly on the fundamental ethical principal of justice: equal distribution of health care, where healthcare is given in the best interest of the community," Chao said. "We, as westerners usually use the principals of autonomy: right to self determination, where the patient is given the final say in the medical decisions made."

Chao said bringing the two principals together is going to be the main challenge faced during the course of the deployment.

"The principals of beneficience: always act in the best interest of the patient, and non-maleficence: above all else, do no harm; will be a possible solution for us if anything were to happen where we had to make a decision," Chao said.

Lt. Cmdr. Leila Gomulka, religious representative of the Ethics Committee, said in eastern society individuals tend to favor family and community when decisions are made, whereas individuals are typically favored in western society.

"Bringing western principals to countries that heavily favor eastern culture can be a challenge," said Gomulka. "We are here to help ease those challenges and hopefully help make the right decision in the best of the patients."

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters.

For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.