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Human Rights and COVID Triage: A Comment on the Bath Protocol

Bhatt, Vivek and Michalowski, Sabine and Wyllie, Aaron and Kuylen, Margot and Martin, Wayne (2021) 'Human Rights and COVID Triage: A Comment on the Bath Protocol.' Journal of Medical Ethics, 47 (7). pp. 464-466. ISSN 0306-6800

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In their discussion paper of November 2020, Cook et al present a draft protocol for navigating circumstances in which emergency services are overwhelmed. Their paper suggests that COVID-related triage decisions should be based on clinical assessment, patient and family consultation, and a range of ethical considerations. In this response, we note that the protocol exhibits an ambiguity that is likely to result in irresolvable dilemmas when put into practice. This ambiguity is exemplified in the paper’s prime ethical imperative (to ‘save more lives and more years of life’), which takes the form of an undefined conjunction whose practical implications are left unspecified. We see this ambiguity in the prime imperative as one manifestation of a broader set of tensions in the protocol. We show that the discipline of human rights provides an essential supplement to the ethical framework on which Cook and colleagues rely, providing a framework for understanding and working through triage dilemmas involving age, discrimination and equality.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19; ethics; rights; ethics committees; consultation; resource allocation
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Faculty of Humanities > Law, School of
Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2021 09:07
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:23

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