The Ethical Unjustifications of COVID-19 Triage Committees

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 18 (4):621-628 (2021)
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Abstract

The ever-debated question of triage and allocating the life-saving ventilator during the COVID-19 pandemic has been repeatedly raised and challenged within the ethical community after shortages propelled doctors before life and death decisions. The British Medical Association’s ethical guidance highlighted the possibility of an initial surge of patients that would outstrip the health system’s ability to deliver care “to existing standards,” where utilitarian measures have to be applied, and triage decisions need to maximize “overall benefit” In these emergency circumstances, triage that “grades according to their needs and the probable outcomes of intervention” will prioritize or eliminate patients for treatment, and health professionals may be faced with obligations to withhold or withdraw treatments to some patients in favour of others. This piece is a response and extension to articles published on the manner of involvement for ethics and ethicists in pandemic triage decisions, particularly examining the ability and necessity of establishing triage committees to ameliorate scarce allocation decisions for physicians.

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