Friday, October 21, 2005

Do Health Care Professionals Have A Duty To Treat Bird Flu Patients?

From the International Herald Tribune:
In A.D. 166, a smallpox epidemic struck Rome. Galen, who had already acquired a reputation for his dissections, fled the city. In 1382, Venice passed a law forbidding physicians to flee in times of plague, and other European cities followed suit. When the plague hit London in 1665, many of the city's physicians - the great Thomas Sydenham included - abandoned their patients to escape the outbreak. In 2003, there were nurses and physicians who refused to care for SARS-infected patients.

Whether wise or cowardly, all these health care workers were aware of a simple fact: Those treating patients are often among the first victims of virulent epidemics. In 2005, with the impending arrival of bird flu on our shores, the question arises: Do health care professionals have a duty to treat bird flu patients?
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