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Policies & Guidelines: Pandemic Influenza
This 2011 guidance published by the Department of Health includes a short section on ‘Ethical principles for pandemic preparedness’ (s3.17-3.20, p30). It notes the impact of an influenza pandemic on the freedom, health and survival prospects of individuals and on allocation of resources, and the personal and professional dilemmas likely to be faced by health and social care professionals.
It emphasises the importance of transparency and inclusiveness in planning for the difficult choices that must be made in the context of an influenza pandemic and it refers health and social care professionals to an ethical framework for planning for pandemic influenza, first published in 2007 (‘Responding to pandemic influenza’). This framework was reviewed after the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic by the Committee on Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza which concluded that it remains appropriate for informing planning for a further pandemic.
The ethical framework (published by the Cabinet Office and Department of Health) is intended to assist planners and strategic policy makers with ethical aspects of decisions they face before, during and after an influenza pandemic. It suggests eight principles that it advises should be considered systematically by clinicians and other health and social care professionals making decisions in this context.
This 2012 guidance from the Department of Health should be read in conjunction with the 2011 preparedness strategy. Like the 2011 strategy, this document reaffirms the continuing appropriateness of the 2007 ethical framework. Note that, in addition to endorsing the ethical framework, it goes on to state that when difficult decisions need to be made in the context of pandemic influenza, “The availability of established clinical ethics committees or support groups at a local level may also be helpful” (s.6.70, p43).
In addition to the guidance identified above, a brief commentary on the ethical issues relating to pandemic influenza preparedness and response can be found in Anne Slowther’s, ‘Planning for and managing pandemic influenza’ (Clinical Ethics 2009; 4:116-118).