Duty of care for doctors in disasters
The AMA this week released its revised Position Statement on Ethical Considerations for Medical Practitioners in Disaster Response in Australia. The Position Statement outlines a doctor’s duty of care in disasters, including natural and man-made disasters, pandemics, and terrorist activities.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that doctors and other health professionals are regularly called upon to help people directly or indirectly affected by an emergency or disaster. During a disaster, doctors may face difficult and ethical dilemmas that do not arise in normal clinical practice. For example, there may be limited resources immediately available in relation to a large number of sick or injured people in various states of health, and the doctor has to prioritise which people receive treatment over others.
Dr Hambleton added that doctors also have a duty to protect themselves from significant harm, so they should not be expected to exceed the bounds of reasonable personal risk.
“In order to ensure the medical profession’s preparedness to respond to a disaster, the medical profession must be involved in the development, implementation, and review of disaster response protocols,” Dr Hambleton said.
The AMA has two other related Position Statements – Involvement of GPs in Disaster and Emergency Planning 2012 and Supporting GPs in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster 2012.