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Biosecur Bioterror. 2008 Sep;6(3):227-36. doi: 10.1089/bsp.2008.0020.

Ethics and severe pandemic influenza: maintaining essential functions through a fair and considered response.

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Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Bloomberg School of Public Healtth, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The response to severe pandemic influenza will be managed by experts in public health and infectious disease and by government officials to whom the public will turn for information and direction. Nonetheless, there remain important ethical considerations that can shape what goals are given priority, how scarce resources are distributed, how the public is included, and how we treat the most vulnerable in our response to a pandemic. This article assumes that the secondary consequences of severe pandemic influenza could be greater than deaths and illness from influenza itself. Response plans, then, must consider threats to societal as well as medical infrastructures. While some have suggested that scarce medical countermeasures be allocated primarily to first responders and then to the sickest, we suggest that an ethical public health response should set priorities based on essential functions. An ethical response also will engage the public, will coordinate interdependent sectors as a core preparedness priority, and will address how plans affect and can be understood by the least well off.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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