Saturday, August 09, 2008

Study : 1 In 3 Doctors Would Abandon Patients During Bird Flu Pandemic

It's a fascinating question of ethics in a debate that has barely begun : You're a GP, there's a bird flu pandemic unfolding, the deadly virus is as easy to catch as normal flu and the dead are piling up. Would you stay and continue to treat the sick and the dying, or would you do a runner to save yourself, and your family from infection?

According to this story, 1/3 of doctors surveyed answered they would place their own health and safety above that of their patients in the event of a bird flu pandemic :

While health experts continue to warn the world remains ill-prepared for a global outbreak, mass absenteeism of doctors has emerged as the latest threat that might exacerbate a crisis.

Researchers who interviewed GPs about how they would cope with a global outbreak were surprised to find nearly one-third "felt that their responsibility to themselves to stay healthy and to protect their families outweighed their responsibility to continue working".

Independent ethics expert Paul Komesaroff, director of the Monash Centre for the Study of Ethics in Medicine and Society, and ethics convenor for the Royal Australian College of Physicians, says there is no ethical obligation on doctors to put themselves in harm's way while doing their job.

"However, it's also part of the tradition of medicine that people in fact do that," Professor Komesaroff said.
How doctors and hospital staff react, and act, during a bird flu pandemic is a subject I'm planning to explore in some of the short stories I'm writing that will form the prequel to ED Day : Dead Sydney novel, the online novel I finished a few months ago about a bird flu pandemic that kills millions of Australians.

Doctors may have ethics, but they're still human, and many have families. The flight response to get the hell away from an infected city as quickly as possible would be all but impossible to resist.

Indonesia : 13 Adults, Children Hospitalised, Quarantined With Suspected Bird Flu Symptoms

UPDATE : 13 Indonesian Villagers Cleared Of Bird Flu Virus Infection