A Founder of Bioethics Field Discusses Ethical Challenges in Confronting Disasters
Dr. Ruth Macklin, one of the founders of the field of bioethics, spoke on the difficult ethical issues involved with the allocation of scarce resource in times of disaster in her lecture, Ethical Challenges in Confronting Disasters: Some Lessons Learned on April 14, 2015 at St. George’s University Caribbean House, attended by a mix of faculty, staff and members of the community.
Using case studies which looked at the responses, outcomes, and lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, as well as the earthquake in Haiti, Dr. Macklin pointed to the many complex ethical decisions disaster preparedness and response involves—from gauging the severity of a disaster to the planning, coordinating and predicting of the human response.
“In the case of medication, one of the basic pervading ethical principles is to save the most lives, where patients are treated according to the severity of their condition,” said Dr. Macklin. Patients are organized using a triage system so that those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome can be treated as quickly as possible.
“The aftermath of a disaster can be felt for a very long time, often beyond the immediate effects and treatment,” said Dr. Macklin. “At the end of the day there are no easy answers.”
Dr. Ruth Macklin is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health and a Dr. Shoshanah Trachtenberg Frackman Faculty Scholar in Biomedical Ethics at the Global Health Center, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She has published extensively in the areas of biomedical research, public health ethics, stem cell research and end-of-life issues. Dr. Macklin has served on committees of the World Health Organization, including its vaccine advisory committee and was elected to the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Science. Dr. Macklin is a past president of the International Association of Bioethics and currently serves on its board of directors.
WINDREF and St. George’s University have long attracted world experts on climate change, health needs, and drug abuse and addictions, among other topics to its various lecture series.
Past speakers include, Dr. Robert C. Gallo, Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, best known for his role in the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), who spoke on the topic “Virus and Epidemics: Our Attempts to Control them with emphasis on HIV and AIDS”, and Dr. Valetin Fuster, a renowned cardiologist, who presented on the topic, “The Worldwide Challenge of Cardiovascular Disease.”
This lecture was presented in partnership with the Caribbean Research Ethics Education Initiative (CREE) and supported in part by the US National Institutes of Health (HIH) Fogarty International Center.