Matthew Wynia and his co-authors and Charmers Clark, in their two chapters, take on thorny issues concerning the moral responsibilities of physicians – and, by implication, all health care professionals – regarding preparation for and response to epidemics (Clark, 2006; Wynia, Kurlander, & Green, 2006). Their chapters are especially timely, inasmuch as they address ethical challenges associated with bioterrorism, which, should it occur, could create an epidemic of catastrophic proportions, at least for the locality or localities in which the bioterrorism occurs. In this commentary, I provide a critical assessment of their chapters. I begin with a review of the foundational concept of the Wynia et al. chapter, social-trustee professionalism, and of the Clark chapter, a covenant of public trust. I then take up four issues: the moral demands of social-trustee professionalism and how the social-contract theory of medical ethics advocated by the framers of the 1847 American Medical Association Code of Ethics (American Medical Association, 1847) should be understood; social-role related obligations as ethically-justified limits on fiduciary responsibility in bioterrorism events and how such obligations should be addressed in a preventive ethics fashion by health care organizations; legitimate self-interests as ethically-justified limits on fiduciary responsibility and how such interests should be distinguished from mere self-interests and be addressed in a preventive ethics fashion by health care organizations; and the nature and limits of the standard of care in the large-scale emergencies that bioterrorism events could create.
McCullough, L.B. (2006), "Chapter 8: Ethically Justified Limits on the Obligations of Physicians and Health Care Organizations in Response to Epidemics and Bioterrorism", Balint, J., Philpott, S., Baker, R. and Strosberg, M. (Ed.) Ethics and Epidemics (Advances in Bioethics, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 175-186. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1479-3709(06)09008-XDownload as .RIS
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