Non-Professional Healthcare Workers and Ethical Obligations to Work during Pandemic Influenza

Public Health Ethics 3 (1):23-34 (2010)
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Abstract

Most academic papers on ethics in pandemics concentrate on the duties of healthcare professionals. This paper will consider non-professional healthcare workers: do they have a moral obligation to work during an influenza pandemic? If so, is this an obligation that outweighs others they might have, e.g., as parents, and should such an obligation be backed up by the coercive power of law? This paper considers whether non-professional healthcare workers—porters, domestic service workers, catering staff, clerks, IT support workers, etc.—have an obligation to work during an influenza pandemic. It uses data collected as part of a study looking at the attitudes of healthcare workers to working during a pandemic to suggest the philosophical arguments explored. These include: being in a position to do good, the ethics of work, competing obligations to family members and in particular to children and the obligations of citizens in a state of national emergency. We also look at whether compulsory measures are justified to support a national health service during a health emergency. We conclude that even if they are, compulsion should not be restricted to non-professionals who happen to be working in the health service at the time. Rather, compulsion involving a larger pool of people with the relevant skills and abilities is more equitable

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Author Profiles

Jim Parry
Charles University, Prague
Tom Sorell
University of Warwick