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Life-Support Allocation Policy Needed for Public Emergencies

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  • Life-Support Allocation Policy Needed for Public Emergencies

    Report recommends new ethical framework for deciding who should receive scarce resources

    TUESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Current recommendations concerning who should receive scarce life support during a public health emergency such as an influenza pandemic are in need of refinement, according to research published in the Jan. 20 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

    Douglas B. White, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues describe current recommendations as narrowly utilitarian because they emphasize saving the most lives, are based on patients' odds of survival to hospital discharge, and exclude certain groups such as the elderly, those with functional impairment and those with chronic conditions.

    To improve allocation decisions, the authors developed an ethical framework that balances multiple factors, including the need to save the most lives, maximize the number of life-years saved, and give patients an equal opportunity to pass through life's stages. They also addressed strategies aimed at getting the public involved in setting allocation priorities.

    "We hope that our proposal will stimulate a broad debate about how to ethically allocate scarce life-sustaining resources during a public health emergency," the authors conclude.

    "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation