Chapter Two: Professional Responsibilities

Udo Schuklenk (12 May 2020), “What healthcare professionals owe us: why their duty to treat during a pandemic is contingent on personal protective equipment (PPE),” Journal of Medical Ethics 46:432–435
Schuklenk provides an updated and more refined version of the argument given in reading 2.1 of The Ethics of Pandemics. He argues that medical professionals’ ability to protect themselves depends on their ability to practice universal precautions, which requires sufficient availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). The shortages of PPE in the COVID-19 pandemic were not the result of careful resource allocation decisions. Instead, the shortages resulted from a desire to contain costs and cut taxes. Schuklenk considers and offers rebuttals to various arguments that suggest health care professionals have a duty to treat even when PPE supplies are inadequate.

Michael Dunn, et al. (11 April 2020), “‘Your Country Needs You’: The Ethics of Allocating Staff to High-Risk Clinical Roles in the Management of Patients with COVID-19,” Journal of Medical Ethics [blog]
Dunn and his colleagues consider the ethics of allocating health-care professionals to high-risk clinics during outbreaks of highly hazardous communicable diseases. They provide a brief analysis of three allocation models: volunteering, lottery, and equal sharing of risks.

Nancy Berlinger, et al. (29 April 2020), “Responding to COVID-19 as a Regional Public Health Challenge: Preliminary Guidelines for Regional Collaboration Involving Hospitals,” The Hastings Center Bioethics Forum [blog]
Berlinger et al. propose ethical guidelines for hospitals working across regions. They address obligations to prepare for foreseeable emergencies, support for health-care workers, protection of vulnerable populations, and the promise of collaborating across health care regions.

Samia Hurst (7 June 2020), “Accepting trust for pandemic response: we need leaders to think twice,” Journal of Medical Ethics [blog]
Trust in public health officials is particularly important during a pandemic. Without trust the public is unlikely to follow public health recommendations. The particular features of a pandemic—rapidly changing information, uncertainty, fear, and unrealistic expectations—pose challenges for developing trusting relations, which Hurst examines in this article.

Georgina Morley, et al. (14 May 2020), “Covid‐19: Ethical Challenges for NursesThe Hastings Center Report.
This article focuses on ethical issues that arise in the context of nursing. Nurses make up the largest proportion of health care workers, but are not always given their due consideration. Morley et al. note that nurses have more contact with patients than do other health care workers, and so their safety and that of those with whom they have contact is of utmost importance.

Erik Angner (13 April 2020) “Epistemic Humility—Knowing Your Limits in a Pandemic,” Behavioural Scientist.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who are eminent experts in one field have (falsely) claimed expertise in unrelated fields. Angner notes the dangers of this approach and calls for epistemic humility, an intellectual virtue.