4-6-11: The Ethics of Triage
When the earthquake struck in Haiti last year, caregivers from around the world responded in the weeks following. They saw thousands of people in need of medicine, water, food, and shelter. But there were not enough supplies to treat everyone.
In situations with a lack of resources, how do caregivers decide who they can save — and who’s beyond help?
Tom Kirsch, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins, was in Haiti in the week following the earthquake. He had to make those sorts of decisions, and he found it took a real toll on him and his colleagues. He and his wife, Margaret Moon, also a doctor at Hopkins, and a scholar in clinical ethics at the Berman Institute, wrote about the experience in an article called “The Line,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last spring.
Now, back in Maryland, they’re trying to create guidelines that could be useful in future disaster situations. To do so, they’re holding a conference this week at Johns Hopkins’ School of Public Health. It includes a forum open to the public, in which a panel of experts and a public audience will be presented with triage cases, and electronically vote on who gets care and who doesn’t. The panel will then comment on the ramifications of that decision. It’s taking place on Thursday at 3 pm at Johns Hopkins’ Sheldon Hall.