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Ann Emerg Med. 2001 Jun;37(6):642-6.

Terrorism and the ethics of emergency medical care.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Abstract

The threat of domestic and international terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction-terrorism (WMD-T) has become an increasing public health concern for US citizens. WMD-T events may have a major effect on many societal sectors but particularly on the health care delivery system. Anticipated medical problems might include the need for large quantities of medical equipment and supplies, as well as capable and unaffected health care providers. In the setting of WMD-T, triage may bear little resemblance to the standard approach to civilian triage. To address these issues to the maximum benefit of our patients, we must first develop collective forethought and a broad-based consensus that these decisions must reach beyond the hospital emergency department. Critical decisions like these should not be made on an individual case-by-case basis. Physicians should never be placed in a position of individually deciding to deny treatment to patients without the guidance of a policy or protocol. Emergency physicians, however, may easily find themselves in a situation in which the demand for resources clearly exceeds supply. It is for this reason that emergency care providers, personnel, hospital administrators, religious leaders, and medical ethics committees need to engage in bioethical decision making before an acute bioterrorist event.

PMID:
11385335
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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