In light of the ongoing development and implementation of core competencies in bioethics, it is important to proceed with a clear sense of how bioethics knowledge is utilized in the functioning of hospital ethics committees (HECs). Without such an understanding, we risk building a costly edifice on a foundation that is ambiguous at best. This article examines the empirical relationship between traditional paradigms of bioethics theory and actual decision making by HEC members using survey data from HEC members. The assumption underlying the standardization of qualifications and corresponding call for increased education of HEC members is that they will base imminent case decisions on inculcated knowledge. Our data suggest, however, that HEC members first decide intuitively and then look for justification, thereby highlighting the need to re-examine the pedagogical processes of ethics education in the process of standardizing and improving competencies.