ResearchPad - current-controversy https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[‘Your country needs you’: the ethics of allocating staff to high-risk clinical roles in the management of patients with COVID-19]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_10256 As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on health service delivery, health providers are modifying care pathways and staffing models in ways that require health professionals to be reallocated to work in critical care settings. Many of the roles that staff are being allocated to in the intensive care unit and emergency department pose additional risks to themselves, and new policies for staff reallocation are causing distress and uncertainty to the professionals concerned. In this paper, we analyse a range of ethical issues associated with changes to staff allocation processes in the face of COVID-19. In line with a dominant view in the medical ethics literature, we claim, first, that no individual health professional has a specific, positive obligation to treat a patient when doing so places that professional at risk of harm, and so there is a clear ethical tension in any reallocation process in this context. Next, we argue that the changing asymmetries of health needs in hospitals means that careful consideration needs to be given to a stepwise process for deallocating staff from their usual duties. We conclude by considering how a justifiable process of reallocating professionals to high-risk clinical roles should be configured once those who are ‘fit for reallocation’ have been identified. We claim that this process needs to attend to three questions that we consider in detail: (1) how the choice to make reallocation decisions is made, (2) what justifiable models for reallocation might look like and (3) what is owed to those who are reallocated.

]]>
<![CDATA[The healthcare worker at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic: a Jewish ethical perspective]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_10119 The current COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions and dilemmas for modern day ethicists and healthcare providers. Are physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers morally obligated to put themselves in harm’s way and treat patients during a pandemic, occurring a great risk to themselves, their families and potentially to other patients? The issue was relevant during the 1918 influenza epidemic and more recently severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003. Since the risk to the healthcare workers was great, there was tension between the ethical duty and responsibility to treat and the risk to one’s own life. This tension was further noted during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that left hundreds of healthcare workers dead. The AMA Code of Ethics states that physicians are to ‘provide urgent medical care during disasters…even in the face of greater than usual risk to physicians’ own safety, health or life.’1 Classic Jewish sources have dealt with this question as well. There is an obligation ‘to not stand by idly when your friends life is in danger’; however, the question arises as to whether there are limits to this obligation? Is one required to risk one’s own life to save another’s? There is a consensus that one is not required but the question open to debate is whether it is praiseworthy to do so. However, regarding healthcare workers, there is agreement for ethical, professional and societal reasons that they are required to put themselves in harm’s way to care for their patients.

]]>
<![CDATA[Can China’s ‘standard of care’ for COVID-19 be replicated in Europe?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_10117 The Director-General of the WHO has suggested that China’s approach to the COVID-19 crisis could be the standard of care for global epidemics. However, as remarkable as the Chinese strategy might be, it cannot be replicated in other countries and certainly not in Europe. In Europe, there is a distribution of power between the European Union and its member states. In contrast, China’s political power is concentrated in the central government. This enables it to take immediate measures that affect the entire country, such as massive quarantines or closing borders. Moreover, the Chinese legal framework includes restrictions on privacy and other human rights that are unknown in Europe. In addition, China has the technological power to easily impose such restrictions. In most European countries, that would be science fiction. These conditions have enabled China to combat epidemics like no other country can. However, the WHO might have been overoptimistic. The Chinese standard of care for treating COVID-19 also raises problematic issues for human rights, and the real consequences of these actions remain to be seen.

]]>
<![CDATA[Whose life to save? Scarce resources allocation in the COVID-19 outbreak]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_10116 After initially emerging in China, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has advanced rapidly. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently declared it a pandemic, with Europe becoming its new epicentre. Italy has so far been the most severely hit European country and demand for critical care in the northern region currently exceeds its supply. This raises significant ethical concerns, among which is the allocation of scarce resources. Professionals are considering the prioritisation of patients most likely to survive over those with remote chances, and this news has triggered an intense debate about the right of every individual to access healthcare. The proposed analysis suggests that the national emergency framework in which prioritisation criteria are currently enforced should not lead us to perceive scarce resources allocation as something new. From an ethical perspective, the novelty of the current emergency is not grounded in the devastating effects of scarce resources allocation, which is rife in recent and present clinical practice. Rather, it has to do with the extraordinarily high number of people who find themselves personally affected by the implications of scarce resources allocation and who suddenly realise that the principle of ‘equals should be treated equally’ may no longer be applicable. Along with the need to allocate appropriate additional financial resources to support the healthcare system, and thus to mitigate the scarcity of resources, the analysis insists on the relevance of a medical ethics perspective that does not place the burden of care and choice solely on physicians.

]]>
<![CDATA[Triage during the COVID-19 epidemic in Spain: better and worse ethical arguments]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_10077 The COVID-19 pandemic has generated an imbalance between the clinical needs of the population and the effective availability of advanced life support (ALS) resources. Triage protocols have thus become necessary. Triage decisions in situations of scarce resources were not extraordinary in the pre-COVID-19 era; these protocols abounded in the context of organ transplantation. However, this prior experience was not considered during the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain. Lacking national guidance or public coordination, each hospital has been forced to put forth independent and autonomous triage protocols, most of which were, nonetheless, based on common ethical principles and clinical criteria. However, controversial, non-clinical criteria have also been defended by Spanish scientific societies and public institutions, including setting an age cut-off value for unilaterally withholding ALS, using ‘social utility’ criteria, prioritising healthcare professionals or using ‘first come, first served’ policies. This paper describes the most common triage criteria used in the Spanish context during the COVID-19 epidemic. We will highlight our missed opportunities by comparing these criteria to those used in organ transplantation protocols. The problems posed by subjective, non-clinical criteria will also be discussed. We hope that this critical review might be of use to countries at earlier stages of the epidemic while we learn from our mistakes.

]]>
<![CDATA[Balancing the duty to treat with the duty to family in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Ne18f31e8-d514-431d-b8c1-48fff23d0c6f Healthcare systems around the world are struggling to maintain a sufficient workforce to provide adequate care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staffing problems have been exacerbated by healthcare workers (HCWs) refusing to work out of concern for their families. I sketch a deontological framework for assessing when it is morally permissible for HCWs to abstain from work to protect their families from infection and when it is a dereliction of duty to patients. I argue that it is morally permissible for HCWs to abstain from work when their duty to treat is outweighed by the combined risks and burdens of that work. For HCWs who live with their families, the obligation to protect one’s family from infection contributes significantly to those burdens. There are, however, a range of complicating factors including the strength of duty to treat which varies according to the HCW’s role, the vulnerability of family members to the disease, the willingness of family members to risk infection and the resources available to the HCW to protect their family. In many cases, HCWs in ‘frontline’ roles with a weak duty to treat and families at home will be morally permitted to abstain from work given the risks posed by COVID-19; therefore, society should provide additional incentives to maintain sufficient staff in these roles. ]]>