In 2006, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health awarded funding to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine to examine the issues the state may face during an influenza pandemic and to consider the rights and responsibilities of private organizations and individuals. The Task Force on Ethics and Pandemic Influenza Planning explored several ethical issues, including the responsibilities of and to healthcare workers and other critical workers, the balance between the rights of individuals and protection of the public, and the prioritization and utilization of limited resources.Back to Task Forces
Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH
State Health Director, Division of Public Health
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Rosemarie Tong, PhD
Director, Center for Professional and Applied Ethics
Professor, Department of Philosophy University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Recent human cases of the bird flu have heightened the public’s awareness of the possibility of a flu pandemic in the near future. Many experts warn it is not a question of if but when the next flu pandemic will arrive. This prediction is alarming, particularly as it impacts the healthcare industry, which may be overwhelmed by demands for services to treat the ill.
The Division of Public Health developed a pandemic influenza response plan. Its response plan focuses on the emergency response functions and necessary partnerships to mount an effective response, but does not directly address the ethical issues that will arise in the event of a flu pandemic. When developing an ethical framework to help guide public and private decision making during a pandemic, the task force weighed different ethical considerations, including the need to ensure accountability, equitable treatment among similarly situated individuals, proportionality of actions, and inclusiveness and timeliness in decision making. The task force’s report details the ethical framework the group developed.