Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: Mass Casualties & Triage

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Chicago Med (Season 2; Episode 14). Over the last few years I have been working in the area of crisis standards of care. In fact, just today I presented the conclusion of 3 years of work on an ethics white paper to the state of Illinois crisis standards of care task force leadership. Serendipitously, tonight’s episode of Chicago Med dealt with a limited mass casualty situation: A multiple car pile-up on a freeway brings a large number of patients to the hospital. However, there is a major snowstorm and there is no chance of additional personnel or supplies coming to the hospital. How do they deal? First, they moved all able-bodied patients in the ED to the waiting room. Second, they canceled all non-emergency surgeries and reassigned staff to the ED. Both are good moves and follow what most crisis guidelines to prepare for the influx of crisis patient.

One of the patients brought to the ED suffered third degree burns over 90% of his body when his car caught on fire. Dr. Latham declares the patient to be “black tag.” In a mass casualty incidence, triage comes into play to determine which patients to treat and in what order. There are those who seem okay, those who need treatment but can wait, those who need treatment quickly and have a good chance of survival, and those who require massive resources in their intervention and have a low likelihood of survival. Patients are sorted into these categories and given tags with the color of their group.

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.