Researchers ask: When patients flood a hospital — who should be saved first?

Researchers from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine are extending the decision-making process to the public regarding who providers should prioritize saving in the event of a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or national disaster, according to a report in The New York Times.

The debate makes Maryland one of the first states to ask its citizens who they think should be prioritized when medical resources are scarce, according to the report. Eighteen states and the hospitals operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs have already established procedures for when there aren't enough resources— such as during the Ebola epidemic, Hurricane Katrina or the H1N1 pandemic. However, according to The New York Times, few members of the public were consulted in crafting these plans.

Maryland's research has found people generally prioritize saving the greatest number of lives or years of life, meaning the youngest or healthiest should be treated first. After that, they preferred a lottery system to decide who should be next or decide between people with equal circumstances.

The project hopes to take these ideas and many other details — such as what to do with prisoners, undocumented immigrants or drug addicts — all into account in developing guidelines for the state of Maryland, according to the report. The organizers said guidelines could be ready as early as mid-2017.

Read the full story here.


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