The management of major incidents and disasters

The management of major incidents and disasters can impose significant clinical, logistical, organisational, and ethical challenges. They can introduce unique moral, triage, resource allocation, and public health issues. Many of the most crucial of these dilemmas can be anticipated and planned for in advance, and prospective ethical deliberations must be given to a range of moral issues that may arise during the response to, and recovery from a disaster.


One such dilemma that can be anticipated and discussed in advance of disasters occurring is that of “duty of care”.


The standard practice expectations for any health care worker are a combination of general standards of professional practice, standards of performance, professional codes of ethics, legal regulations, and competencies.


During normal operating procedures, emergency health care workers understand and generally accept their “duty of care” to individual patients.


However, during a disaster or major incident when the point of care moves from the individual patient to the greater population, does this “duty of care” translate to a “duty to respond”? Even if there is a potential risk to the health care worker?


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