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Ethics and COVID-19: resource allocation and priority-setting

Published: April 1, 2020

Categories: Covid-19, Global Health

Language: English


Governments, international agencies and health systems have an obligation to ensure, to the best of their ability, adequate provision of health care for all. However, this may not be possible during a pandemic, when health resources are likely to be limited. Setting priorities and rationing resources in this context means making tragic choices, but these tragic choices can be ethically justified. This is why we have ethics. This policy brief answers a number of questions about the ethics of setting priorities for the allocation of resources during times of scarcity. Such decisions may include access to hospitals, ventilators, vaccines and medicines. It is essential that policies and practices are ethically justified in such contexts. The document provides a high-level ethical framework that can be used to guide decision-making.