Governments need to set ethical standards now for dealing with a possible influenza epidemic, says a Canadian bioethics thinktank. Based on the experience of the 2003 SARS crisis, the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics has drawn up a 15-point ethical guide.
The Canadian battle with SARS proved that there were substantial issues. Dozens of health care workers were infected and some even died, but others refused to treat SARS patients. Apart from the duty to provide care, other matters which need to be examined include quarantine measures which strike a balance between public health and individual liberty; allocation of scarce medicines; and framing travel advisories so that they are transparent and equitable.
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