How to navigate complex ethical dilemmas

28 June, 2019

We rely on our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers to care for us and our families in times of need, but what happens in times of crisis, when delivering that care isn’t quite so straightforward?

When an already strained system is placed under acute pressure the decisions made in hospitals become even more consequential than usual. You can’t magic extra beds and more staff out of thin air. Increased investment can help address the problem in the long term, but provides no immediate relief for frontline workers battling to deliver an essential public service. It forces healthcare professionals and administrators to undertake the difficult moral calculus of deciding how to distribute a scarce resource.

How should hospitals tackle this impossible task? There is no shortage of operational rules, codes and procedures to follow, but they may not always have the answer we need. The starting point may be ‘do no harm’, but what if helping one person means leaving another to suffer? When there is no perfect outcome, what ethical frameworks might inform our decision-making?

When our care system is in crisis, how do hospitals decide how to distribute scarce resources? CEO Vanessa Pigrum address the ethical dilemmas facing health practitioners.

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