The ethics of care: social workers in an influenza pandemic.
Many healthcare organizations and government agencies are making detailed preparations for the possibility of a pandemic of highly virulent influenza. All plans to date have recognized that there will undoubtedly be a greater need for medical resources than will be available. Thus, we will be faced with a situation in which not all will be offered curative care, even if they could benefit from it. Even if there were sufficient amounts of vaccines, hospital beds, ventilators, and antibiotics, there are still expected to be large numbers of deaths as well as stress due to the overwhelming nature of the pandemic. The challenges of caring for the incurable, the uncured, healthcare workers, and the survivors and their families will place almost unprecedented demands on mental health workers. In this article, I discuss these ethical and medical challenges and the role that social workers will be called on to play.
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