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J Clin Ethics. 2011 Spring;22(1):33-41.

Unaltered ethical standards for individual physicians in the face of drastically reduced resources resulting from an improvised nuclear device event.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Division of General Internal Medicine, McGill University, Montreal.


When disaster disrupts healthcare and other systems, the ethical allocation of resources should follow principles of justice, defined as fairness, established for normal clinical practice. Standards of clinical practice may be altered during disaster, but ethical standards must remain centered on prioritizing the treatment of patients according to need and the effectiveness of treatment. Should resources become extremely limited, it is fair to restrict their use to patients who have the highest needs, provided that the intervention is effective. When resources become more available, patients with lower priority can be increasingly accommodated.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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