Volume 23, Number 4, Winter 2012
Bedside Resource Stewardship in Disasters: A Providerís Dilemma Practicing in an Ethical Gap
The Journal of Clinical Ethics 23, no. 4 (Winter 2012): 331-5.
During disasters, clinicians may be forced to play dual roles, as both a provider and an allocator of scarce resources. At present, a clear framework to govern resource stewardship at the bedside is lacking. Clinicians who find themselves practicing in this ethical gap between clinical and public health ethics can experience significant moral distress. One provider describes her experience allocating an oxygen tank in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, immediately following the 2010 earthquake. Using a clinical vignette and reflective narrative she attempts to identify the factors that influenced her allocation decision, opening up the factors for commentary and debate by an ethicist. A better paradigm for the ethical care of patients during disasters is needed to better guide provider choices in the future.