Bioethics Blogs

Allocation of Ventilators in an Influenza Pandemic

A few weeks ago, the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law at the New York State Department of Health released updated guidelines on “Allocation of Ventilators in an Influenza Pandemic.”

In short, the Guidelines incorporate an ethical framework and evidence-based clinical data that support the goal of saving the most lives in an influenza pandemic where there are a limited number of ventilators.

The Task Force first released a report in 2007, addressing how ventilators should be allocated to adults in the event of a shortage due to a pandemic outbreak of influenza.  Those Guidelines were among the first of their kind to be released in the United States and have been widely cited and followed by other states.

In November 2015, the Task Force released its updated Guidelines. As part of the revision process, the Task Force oversaw an extensive public engagement project and incorporated these results and prior public feedback into the updated Guidelines. In addition, the ethical framework is more detailed, and the adult clinical ventilator allocation protocol has been expanded to include a more robust discussion of the clinical factors. 

Furthermore, the 2015 Guidelines examine special considerations and ethical issues related to the treatment of children and include two new clinical ventilator allocation protocols for pediatric patients (17 years old and younger) and for neonates (infants less than 28 days old). Finally, a substantial exploration of the various legal issues that may arise when implementing the clinical protocols for ventilator allocation is also provided.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.