Are doctors obligated to treat during a pandemic?
The rapid spread of virus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2) has resulted in a global pandemic. Hospitals and intensivists around the world have faced ethical challenges with many countries facing limited access to ICU beds, mechanical ventilators and protective personal equipment. These unprecedented times have revealed the vulnerabilities within healthcare systems, creating confusion and disarray among health care workers as protocols and indications to test evolve daily, roles and responsibilities remain uncertain, and guidelines for treatment continue to change. These challenges include the moral obligation for healthcare professionals to care for those affected by SARS-CoV-2. Ethical dilemmas arise as treatment standards can be compromised, resulting in professional and personal hardship. There is a need for clear guidelines guided by a strong ethical framework for both medical practitioners and the public. It is necessary to approach this issue holistically to examine the effects of compromised healthcare on medical practitioners during a time limited resources. Rather than a moral obligation bound by social contract, there is an opportunity to promote altruism for others. This requires guidelines framed by ethical decision making, full transparency and clear communication.