Influenza has become a current pandemic in the last half-century occurring over three times in fifty years. With such prevalence, it is evident that an additional attack of the virus may strike people shortly. This defined the list of the World Health Organization convention that discussed possible measures of planning and preparedness in case the pandemic reappears. The need for readiness cannot receive underestimation because of the impacts of influenza on the population. Influenza causes fatal consequences because of the high transmission rates of the virus, causing the disease.
In addition, Virus infection needs to be handled correctly and immediately. Otherwise, the victim succumbs to death. Furthermore, the need to prevent disease during times of the breakout compels health workers, researchers, and governments to make critical decisions.
Being a pandemic, preceding events were characterized by inadequate prevention and treatment medical services. This is the more reason why preparedness is mandatory. Unfortunately, the earlier events of the influenza pandemic do not reflect any patterns that can prove useful in predicting what future occurrences may bring. Therefore, it is likely that the globe will be in turmoil because of limited resources. Therefore, there is an ardent need for proper planning for allocating scarce resources in case an influenza pandemic results in the future. Ethical principles serve as guidelines in the formulation of policies and strategies for combating the highly debilitating epidemic. The application of ethical principles in the formulation of systems in the management of the influenza pandemic has confused. A number of measures that the World Health Organization has described as crucial in fighting the influenza pandemic are characterized by different ethical standards.
Challenges in Policy Determination Regarding the Influenza Pandemic Policy formulation in a bid to maintain the required level of preparedness regarding an influenza pandemic should address the different types of intervention. Prevention is one of the intervention methods. Policies addressing the prevention strategies and their application are essential. Moreover, infected individuals will need to receive medication. The challenge of defining policies concerning the intervention strategies is determining how the distribution of the available resources will occur. It is difficult to determine the correct target populations for the prevention and recovery approaches and to establish the priority list. This implies that the consideration of different ethical issues is critical to receive guidelines. The prevention and treatment resources are limited, a factor that explains the need for the application of ethical principles in the allocation of scarce resources.
The second challenge is the fact that different countries have varying economic standing. Three categories are evident, and they include the developed upper-class societies, the middle class, and the lower class. The influenza pandemic does not discriminate between these communities because of its fast transmission. This places a challenge for the World Health Organization to allocate the resources to nations and societies with a diverse economic standing. The rich countries have the potential to purchase medical supplies required for combating the influenza pandemic. Moreover, rich countries cannot afford such resources. The application of ethical principles in determining how each state can have a share of the limited resources is critical.
- Ethical Principles that Serve as Guidelines of Formulating Policies of Combating Influenza Pandemic
The World Health Organization identified utilitarianism as one of the ethical principles that can serve as a guideline in the definition of policies that have the potential of addressing an influenza pandemic. Utilitarianism focuses on the potential consequences of any policy decided upon as one of the critical strategies of addressing future influenza pandemics. According to this principle, the selected system should yield more benefits to a higher number of people.
Under utilitarianism, the World Health Organization can focus on ‘saving the maximum number of lives possible.’ This would mean that the available resources would help the most significant possible number of people. Therefore, the globe would exhibit concerted efforts in ensuring that victims of the pandemic receive treatment while the vulnerable population receives prevention vaccines. This measure would gain a measure of justification when considering utilitarianism and health benefits. However, utilitarianism considers other benefits, such as economic, social, and familial. When viewed from this perspective, some policies that may present more combined benefits may surpass the need to save the most significant number of people. However, ensuring that most lives are saved may imply that special attention to people with the influenza virus is unjustified. This is because keeping the number of lives possible applies to all the sick people. This does not give any additional privilege to the influenza victims.
In other cases, utilitarianism may also serve as a guideline in determining the target group of medication and prevention. When in a dilemma of the target group to save, whether the young or the elderly, utilitarianism highlights that the young deserve the claim of treatment and prevention. This would be the case because consideration of consequences would focus on the action that ensures that every individual has increased opportunities in life. The elderly have had their fair share of experiences and opportunities, and saving the young generation with the available resources would ensure society’s progression in the future. The younger generation is the hub for the potential that the future depends on. Therefore, an organization having a prospect is the maximum benefit to all.
In addition, utilitarianism justifies the use of resources in addressing the risk that health workers pose in treating influenza. To ensure that the largest When presented with the choice of saving the highest possible number, the health workers need good health. Therefore, this justifies using resources to address the health needs of health workers both in prevention and treatment. Healthy health workers have the potential to address the needs of the community, especially concerning the pandemic. This will serve to maximize their service, hence saving many lives.
Moreover, utilitarianism justifies the use of available resources to ensure that vaccines against the vaccine are introduced. Prevention has a high level of potential by providing that many people are safe from infection and present maximum benefits compared to treatment. This indicates that the World Health Organization should adopt preventive strategies even before the outbreak of the pandemic.
When making decisions concerning the isolation of people infected with the virus, quarantine measures, and international border control, utilitarianism is of critical importance as one of the guidelines. The purpose of isolation and quarantine measures is limiting the rates of transmission of the virus. These measures are beneficial to the broader population as it ensures that the risk of contracting the virus is lower, and the infected people can receive specialized medication. Although infected people may view it as a form of stigmatization, the purpose of isolation and quarantine measures has always been evident. Utilitarianism justifies such means, as they ensure the prevention of infection in the more significant part of the society.
Equity is a new ethical principle that is an invaluable determinant of strategies for use in efforts to combat any future influenza pandemic. Capital seeks to ensure that cases of discrimination, favoritism, and unfairness do not result. Equity promotes the egalitarian view of justice that provides that the distribution of resources and priority determination observe truth. Promoting equity will ensure that the rich countries will not keep all the medical supplies for themselves, leaving the poor with nothing. In many cases, the rich countries have often scrambled for the available resources and exerted control on the availability, which leaves the developing countries lacking essential health resources. This is has been the observed pattern; its repetition in the case of an influenza pandemic would leave the developing countries badly affected. Therefore, equity is critical in ensuring that all countries have the resources on combating the influenza virus. Moreover, capital seeks to provide that the people in power do not take advantage of the preventive and treatment resources, leaving the subordinates with nothing.
In terms of race, equity serves to ensure that none of the tracks faces discrimination during the distribution of resources. Some sports like blacks lack facilities such as hospitals and are vulnerable because they require disease prevention strategies. To ensure that fairness is observed, it would like the marginalized races to receive a measure of the available resources since they have limited knowledge of the virus, its symptoms, and transmission modes, the WHO needs to determine the strategies of creating awareness in all the regions. In addition to recognition, these people deserve the privilege of receiving prevention so that the virus does not take a fatal toll on them.
Moreover, equity places emphasis on allocating resources to the people who present the highest risk. For example, people living in urban areas have a high vulnerability to the virus because of the congestion existing in such areas. Therefore, it proves just to offer them more prevention and treatment resources. It is also justifiable if awareness in such regions is created rigorously in a bid to ensure that the people observe the defined preventive measures. However, according to priority, urban places may lack any form of justification under utilitarianism, as it would promote health benefits in only a selected portion of the population. However, under equity, this would be highly justified
This principle also justifies by treating priority to the people who are in the most critical condition and requiring urgent medical intervention. The worst-off groups deserve the preference as well. This implies that all there is a need for identification of all the susceptible groups and granting them the top priority in both prevention and treatment. In other cases, it is fair for the limited resources to be spared for the young. Since the older generation has lived for a remarkably long time, the young deserve both preventive and treatment priorities in a bid to grant them an opportunity to live longer. Therefore, policies would target the young so that measures taken against the influenza virus could survive its fatality. The equity principle has its innings that dictate the moral value of children and young adults to be granted the priority. In essence, this is not discrimination of any sort, but rather a fair way of ensuring that the young receive an opportunity to experience life.
Reciprocity is the third ethical principle of critical consideration when addressing the influence pandemic that may occur any unexpectedly in the future. According to this principle, it is justifiable to accord priority to health workers. Health workers deserve such a privilege because they dedicate their lives, facing certain risks in a bid to save others. Therefore, offering them a priority in medication and prevention would cover up the risks they face in their careers. Health workers accept the risks involved in their job voluntarily and deserve a reciprocation of such spirit.
Moreover, other workers, such as cleaners of areas where the virus is handled, deserve a similar privilege because of the increased risk. According to them, a priority also minimizes their risk of spreading the virus to patients. However, the mode of transmission of the influenza virus may present an increased risk to the entire population, eliminating the need for granting health workers a priority.
These ethical principles serve as invaluable guidelines when allocating resources to people in case of a future occurrence of the influenza pandemic. The World Health Organization relies on these principles as guidelines recorded in the documents that address the defined strategies. After analyzing the ethical principles described above, it becomes evident that utilitarianism and egalitarianism are commonly used in making critical decisions. With the level of diversity globally and the fatality of the influenza virus, these cannot receive any underestimation.
- World Health Organization, 2007, Addressing ethical issues in pandemic influenza planning, http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/cds_flu_ethics_5web.pdf
- World Health Organization, 2008, Ethical considerations in developing a public health response to pandemic influenza, http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/WHO_CDS_EPR_GIP_2007_2c.pdf