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Wayne Law professor leads project to create ethics guidelines to help allocate scarce medical resources in a crisis

July 02, 2012

 

LANSING — Suppose a deadly pandemic influenza is breaking out, and healthcare providers have only enough vaccine for a portion of the population. Who gets the vaccine?
Michigan has a new set of proposed ethical guidelines to assist the healthcare system and public health officials if they have to allocate scarce medical resources during a public health emergency, thanks to three years of work by a multi-disciplinary ethics committee led by Wayne State University Law School Assistant Professor Lance Gable, a public health law attorney, with support from the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The MDCH has launched a new website, www.mimedicalethics.org, intended for public feedback on the proposed ethical guidelines.
“The purpose of the guidelines is to minimize the harm caused by public health emergencies, while also allowing fair processes to protect all individuals,” Gable said. “We hope to provide guidelines to healthcare providers and other decision-makers in making ethical decisions about access to scarce medical resources in the most effective way possible.”
Olga Dazzo, director of the MDCH, encourages people to visit the website, review the guidelines and offer feedback.
“One of the goals of this project is to promote trust, transparency and understanding among Michigan residents,” she said. “During a large-scale emergency, medical supplies and resources may become scarce. Having a system in place for access to vital resources will assure that allocation occurs in a fair and ethical way that will be consistent across the healthcare system.”
The website contains links to the ethical guidelines as well as to other resource documents for hospitals, emergency medical service providers and legal counsel on issues of scarce resource allocation during public health emergencies. Members of the general public as well as healthcare employees are encouraged to learn more and provide comments on the website. The guidelines will be revised and finalized once public feedback has been considered and incorporated.
Gable, who has been a faculty member at Wayne Law since 2006, teaches public health law, bioethics and the law and other health law subjects, and also is a scholar with the Centers for Law and the Public’s Health: A Collaborative at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities, which is affiliated with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He has helped develop course materials for the World Health Organization Diploma in International Human Rights and Mental Health, and has worked as a human rights consultant for the Pan American Health Organization.

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