As we continue to weather the current COVID-19 pandemic and reflect on the sacrifices of health care professionals (medical, allied-health, public health, etc.), one can’t help but sober at the risks these professionals have taken in order to provide care. Not only have they taken these risks, but their families were also placed at risk during the more critical periods. Before vaccines and pharmaceutical treatments were available, many of these professionals lost their lives while trying to fulfill their professional obligations. A question of controversy is whether they also have an ethical obligation to treat when their own lives are at risk. This is not a new debate, having been evaluated in past pandemics and epidemics such as H1N1 and Ebola, as well as following disasters such as the collapse of the World Trade Centers on September 11.
After reviewing the following short articles, reflect on this issue. Do health care professionals have an ethical responsibility to provide care during a pandemic or disaster, even if their own lives are in grave danger? Be sure to also consider some of the ethical codes you have reviewed as well as ethical principles in your answer.
Kadish, A., & Loike, J. (2020). A pandemic ethical conundrum: Must health care workers risk their lives to treat Covid-19 patients? Boston Globe Life Sciences Media LLC: STAT. Available in the Trident Online Library.
Pahlman, I., Tohmo, H., & Gylling, H. (2010). Pandemic influenza: Human rights, ethics and duty to treat. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, 54(1), 9–15. Available in the Trident Online Library.
Smith, E., Burkle, F., Jr, Gebbie, K., Ford, D., & Bensimon, C. (2019). A qualitative study of paramedic duty to treat during disaster response. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 13(2), 191-196.
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