Ethical guidance for disaster response

Added April 7, 2020

Citation: Leider JP, DeBruin D, Reynolds N, Koch A, Seaberg J. Ethical Guidance for Disaster Response, Specifically Around Crisis Standards of Care: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health 2017; 107: e1–e9

What is this? Ethical guidance for disaster response may be relevant to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for published studies that included a substantive discussion of ethical guidance for disaster response, specifically around crisis standards of care (CSCs). They searched for articles published in peer-reviewed journals between 2012 and 2016, and included 38 articles, from which they draw their conclusions.

What was found: Most of the literature that substantively engages in ethical discussion around disaster planning is focused on triage and why ethics is needed in disaster response generally.

There is also some discussion of more nuanced issues (e.g. health equity).

The authors of the review conclude that “As governments and health care systems plan for mass casualty events, ethical guidance that is theoretically sound and practically useful can – and should – form an important foundation from which to build practical guidance for responding to disasters with morally appropriate means.”


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