BMC Medical Ethics
(Accessed 2 May 2020)
COVID-19: where is the national ethical guidance?
Authors: Richard Huxtable
Content type: Editorial
1 May 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic poses numerous – and substantial – ethical challenges to health and healthcare. Debate continues about whether there is adequate protective equipment, testing and monitoring, and about when a vaccine might become available and social restrictions might be lifted. The thorny dilemmas posed by triage and resource allocation also attract considerable attention, particularly access to intensive care resources, should demand outstrip supply.
But the “COVID fog” clouds more than the intensive care unit . The provision and uptake of non-COVID related treatment is declining, due to the de-prioritisation of some services and interventions, alongside non-COVID patients’ fears of contracting the virus; difficult conversations are being held in suboptimal circumstances; and final farewells and death rituals have been disrupted. Healthcare personnel, meanwhile, are facing moral distress and, for some, difficulties arising from undertaking new roles in unfamiliar settings.
Whilst patients and the public require support, health and social care professionals also need guidance to help navigate the ethical challenges. A pandemic (by definition) respects no geographical boundaries, so co-ordinated international efforts will be important . But guidance will also be needed to inform decision-making in health and social care within and throughout countries…