Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (7):432-435 (2020)

Udo Schüklenk
Queen's University
Healthcare professionals’ capacity to protect themselves, while caring for infected patients during an infectious disease pandemic, depends on their ability to practise universal precautions. In turn, universal precautions rely on the availability of personal protective equipment. During the SARS-CoV2 outbreak many healthcare workers across the globe have been reluctant to provide patient care because crucial PPE components are in short supply. The lack of such equipment during the pandemic was not a result of careful resource allocation decisions in the global north, where the short supply could be explained through their high cost. Instead, they were the result of democratically elected governments prioritising low tax regimes over an adequate resourcing of their healthcare delivery systems. Such decisions were made despite global health experts warning about the high probability of pandemics like SARS-CoV2 occurring during our lifetimes. Avoidable allocation decisions by democratically elected political leaders resulted in a lack of sufficient PPE for healthcare professionals. After discussing and discounting various ethical arguments in support of a professional obligation to treat, even without or with suboptimal PPE, I conclude that these policy decisions were sufficiently grave that they provide a sound ethical rationale to justify healthcare workers’ refusal to provide care to infected patients.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1136/medethics-2020-106278
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 51,756
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

COVID-19 Current Controversies.Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby - 2020 - Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (7):419-420.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

COVID-19 and Healthcare Professionals: The Principle of the Common Good.Randy A. Tudy - 2020 - Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 30 (4):170-174.
Caring for Risky Patients: Duty or Virtue?T. Tomlinson - 2008 - Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (6):458-462.
Neo-Socratic Dialogue on Fairness in the Healthcare System.K. Aizawa Asai, Y. Kobayashi, K. Hoshiko & S. Bito - 2013 - Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 23 (5):167-170.


Added to PP index

Total views
15 ( #616,812 of 2,333,934 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
15 ( #39,337 of 2,333,934 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes