Ethical Issues in Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response
In a severe pandemic flu, VHA, like other health care organizations, will face a surge in demand for care to large numbers of very sick people in the context of a highly transmissible disease. The demand for resources is likely to exceed what is available under ordinary circumstances and restrictions may be necessary to prevent the spread of disease. As a result, health care standards may need to be modified to respond to the public health threat and to the imbalance between the care that is needed and the resources that are available. Tough decisions may need to be made about reporting for duty, vaccination of health care workers, quarantine, diminished patient privacy, and scarce resource allocation.
As part of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, the National Center for Ethics in Health Care developed ethical guidance to assist VA facilities in pandemic workforce, communications, and patient care planning. This guidance was signed by the VA Under Secretary for Health on July 7, 2010 and has been used for VHA pandemic planning and national exercises.