Ethics of outbreaks position statement. part 1: Therapies, treatment limitations, and duty to treat

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Critical Care Medicine


Objectives: Outbreaks of disease, especially those that are declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, present substantial ethical challenges. Here we start a discourse (with a continuation of the dialogue in Ethics of Outbreaks Position Statement. Part 2: Family-Centered Care) concerning the ethics of the provision of medical care, research challenges and behaviors during a Public Health Emergency of International Concern with a focus on the proper conduct of clinical or epidemiologic research, clinical trial designs, unregistered medical interventions (including vaccine introduction, devices, pharmaceuticals, who gets treated, vulnerable populations, and methods of data collection), economic losses, and whether there is a duty of health care providers to provide care in such emergencies, and highlighting the need to understand cultural diversity and local communities in these efforts. Design: Development of a Society of Critical Care Medicine position statement using literature review and expert consensus from the Society of Critical Care Medicine Ethics committee. The committee had representation from ethics, medical philosophy, critical care, nursing, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology, surgery, and members with international health and military experience. Setting: Provision of therapies for patients who are critically ill or who have the potential of becoming critically ill, and their families, regarding medical therapies and the extent of treatments. Population: Critically ill patients and their families affected by a Public Health Emergency of International Concern that need provision of medical therapies. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Results: Interventions by high income countries in a Public Health Emergency of International Concern must always be cognizant of avoiding a paternalistic stance and must understand how families and communities are structured and the regional/local traditions that affect public discourse. Additionally, the obligations, or the lack of obligations, of healthcare providers regarding the treatment of affected individuals and communities must also be acknowledged. Herein, we review such matters and suggest recommendations regarding the ethics of engagement in an outbreak that is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

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