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Addressing ethical issues that may arise during an influenza pandemic

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is preparing to address some critical ethical issues that are likely to arise during a severe influenza pandemic.

MDH has contracted with the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics (MCHCE) and the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics to produce a set of ethical procedures for allocating medications, vaccines, protective equipment, and other health care and medical items that may be in short supply in a pandemic.

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Recommendations will also be developed for sharing the proposed ethical framework with the public, to ensure that the plan is widely understood and accepted. MDH will be seeking public input on the proposed allocation framework once the group has completed its work.

"There is no question that we will experience another flu pandemic in the future," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach. "If we find ourselves in a major pandemic, like the one that occurred in 1918, we will need to make some very difficult decisions about how to allocate available resources. We will need to have a sound basis for making those decisions, and this project is intended to provide us with that framework."

Because a pandemic could strike everywhere simultaneously, it probably won't be possible to get help from other states or the federal government. And any framework for allocating scarce resources will need to balance a number of competing priorities