Study finds wide range of opinions on pandemic resource allocation

A recent study found a wide range of opinions regarding how resources should be allocated in the event of an emergency situation.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center conducted a pilot study looking at community perspectives on how life-saving ventilators would be distributed in the event of a flu pandemic.

The study examined two Maryland counties on opposite ends of the state's health rankings.

Researchers found that community discussions in the less healthy inner Baltimore city focused on who should be disqualified from access to ventilators, including felons or illegal immigrants. Discussions in the more affluent and healthier Howard County struggled with possible implementation timeframes in the event of a disaster, as well as bias on the part of decision makers.

"We found that participants' ethical perspectives were framed in large part by their place-based life experiences," Ruth R. Faden, the director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and member of the study team, said. "Our results thus far underscore the importance of broad and diverse community input, to capture more fully the issues that matter to people of various backgrounds."

The researchers said the diverse range of opinions found in the pilot study underscored the need to reach a wide variety of residents in Maryland when the project is conducted statewide. That expansion will include 10 forums dedicated to engaging both community members and healthcare officials.