Ethical considerations for allocation of scarce resources and alterations in surgical care during a pandemic.

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The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is unprecedented in modern history. Its effects on social behavior and health care delivery have been dramatic. The resultant burden of disease and critical illness has outpaced the diagnostic, therapeutic, and health care professional resources of many clinics and hospitals. It continues to do so globally. The allocation of hospital beds and ventilators, personal protective equipment, investigational therapeutics, and other scarce resources has required difficult decisions. Clinical and surgical practices which are standard in normal times may not be standard or safe during the COVID-19 crisis. How can we best adapt as physicians and surgeons? What foundational ethical principles and systems of principle application can help guide our decision-making? Fortunately, a large body of work in medical ethics addresses these questions. Unfortunately, many surgeons and other health care professionals are probably not as familiar with these concepts. This brief communication is intended to provide a concise explanation of ethical considerations which readers may find helpful when addressing allocation of scarce resources and alterations in surgical care brought on by the current pandemic.





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Rawlings, Arthur, Lea Brandt, Alberto Ferreres, Horacio Asbun and Phillip Shadduck (2021). Ethical considerations for allocation of scarce resources and alterations in surgical care during a pandemic. Surgical endoscopy, 35(5). pp. 2217–2222. 10.1007/s00464-020-07629-x Retrieved from

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Phillip P. Shadduck

Assistant Consulting Professor in the Department of Surgery

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