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The Discussion and Solution of COVID-19 Ethical Dilemma

The pandemic of COVID-19 emerging globally showed weaknesses of the healthcare systems worldwide. The rapid spread of the unknown virus, lack of medical equipment, and protection tools put constant stress on medical workers. During the time of the global pandemic, the priorities of healthcare workers changed from providing the needs of patients to keeping public health as well as the safety of physicians as the main concern (Wanchoo, 2020). Moreover, the overwhelming situation related to coronavirus aggravated by the global crisis, which occurred due to global lockdown. Soon it became obvious that an adequate ethical regulation could improve the situation (Wanchoo, 2020). This paper will conduct COVID-19 pandemic’s case as a main ethical issue and revise sub-issues occurred during the pandemic. The ethical issue related to duties of physicians and their rights, scarce resources management, and deficit of personal protective equipment will be solved by appealing on healthcare ethical principles namely, autonomy, beneficence, justice, non-maleficence, veracity, and trust.

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The first sub-issue related to the duties and rights of healthcare workers was common during the last outbreak of the virus. Dr. X knows that it is his direct responsibility to cure patients and help them overcome the virus, but he has retired parents and a one-year-old daughter, who live with him in one apartment. The deficit of resources, unclear treatment in protocols, constantly changing information, and virulence of diseases lead to panic among his colleagues (Wanchoo, 2020). He wants to leave his occupation to keep his family safe. The dilemma is that if he could refuse to work and neglect direct responsibilities. According to Wanchoo (2020), the rights and duties of healthcare workers are not specified in some countries. However, as stated by healthcare ethics physicians could not ignore their direct responsibilities during the emergency. Doctor X may concern about the risk and future consequences put on himself and his family. He worries about the situation he or his family member needs medical facilities will they access to them.

The solutions suggested are the practical methods used by the healthcare workers during the pandemic. Firstly, every healthcare facility should create an ethics committee to state policies and standards (Wanchoo, 2020). Secondly, communication channels such as video chats should be open supporting the mental well-being of healthcare workers (Wanchoo,2020). Wanchoo (2020) points out that due to work overload, stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep increase mental health issues observed among healthcare workers. The communication channels without personal contact should help to solve the problem by giving moral support. Thirdly, healthcare workers should have a guarantee of access to medical equipment and facilities in case of infections (Wanchoo, 2020). The ethical principle of reciprocity, which prioritizes the physician’s life, is applied here. Lastly, the recruitment of trainees or retired staff should be held to lessen the burden provided on healthcare workers (Wanchoo, 2020). Talking about Dr. X’s case, as he could not refuse to complete his work, he should be supplied by all the above-mentioned conditions and restricted from contact with his family to stay safe.

Another sub-problem during the explosion of the virus was the scarcity of resources such as hospital beds, ventilators, and medicine. Turning back to Dr. X, let us consider the following example. Two patients, 80 years old man with chronic heart diseases and pancreatitis and 30 years old woman without any special considerations delivered to the hospital. Both suffer from a severe form of COVID-19 and require lung ventilations. The deficiency of the ventilators leads to the difficult decision to choose one of them. A stalemate situation requires quick actions to save one of these lives, otherwise, both will die. The ethical principle about the distribution of the resources that says that all patients regardless of age, sex, gender, ethnicity should have equal access to medical assistance, unfortunately, could not be applied in this case (Wanchoo, 2020). As stated by Wanchoo (2020) the main criteria of selection in this term are saved life years, hence, priority should be given to younger patients. Considering Dr. X’s dilemma, it would be relevant to provide 30 years old woman with a ventilator, rather than 80 years old man. The woman has good chances to survive compared with 80 years old man not only because of younger age but an absence of chorionic diseases as well. A similar situation was observed in Italy during the 2020 spring virus outbreak. At that time older generation refused equipment for young people.

Shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) also turned to be problematic during the pandemic. The crisis related to gowns, face masks, gloves, and face shields put the healthcare workers at great risk. Imagine Dr. X is assigned to regulate the problem of PPE deficit and needs to find a possible solution. One option is logical, production of PPE should be increased to rise supply (Wanchoo, 2020). Moreover, Wanchoo (2020) states that demanding equipment from non-health organizations is also possible. Another option offered by Dr. X could be restricting non-emergency or elective surgeries directing useful supply to the treatment of coronavirus.

To conclude, it could be said that the solution to the sub-dilemmas of coronavirus is a complex decision implemented in real-world conditions. COVID-19 pandemic considered as the main issue of investigation of this paper. Dr. X is an example of a healthcare worker faced with a confusing dilemma as well as representation of all medical personal, who struggled with COVID-19 last year. The healthcare workers’ problems including help in case of emergency, the choice between two lives, and the provision of equipment are investigated using healthcare ethical principles.

Reference

Wanchoo, J. (2020). Ethical Issues Related to Coronavirus Disease. Clinical Synopsis of COVID-19, 237–249. Web.

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