Two Christian bioethicists on life or death issues that American doctors may soon face.
Medical professionals across the US are preparing COVID-19 units in a suspenseful quiet, while others in places like New York are already overwhelmed with patients. The city has ordered hospitals to increase capacity by 50 percent, and they are looking at ways to use temporary facilities, including a recently arrived Navy hospital ship, hastily built field hospitals, and even hotels.
In the midst of all this, doctors and nurses are preparing to face agonizing ethical decisions as their Italian counterparts have already in recent weeks. According to some estimates, the number of projected coronavirus patients needing ventilation in the US could reach anywhere between 1.4 and 31 patients per available ventilator.
There are three main ethical concerns that medical professionals are now facing, according to the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity: protecting the vulnerable by not overwhelming health care systems, allocating insufficient medical supplies, and keeping medical workers safe who lack the proper protective equipment against the virus. The questions are very real: Who should receive medical care when there aren’t enough resources to go around?
Two ethicists aiding US medical workers with these dilemmas are Carol L. Powers, a lawyer and the co-founder and chair of the Community Ethics Committee out of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics in Boston; and David Stevens, a physician and CEO emeritus of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations in Bristol, Tennessee who spent 11 years on the front lines of the HIV/AIDS and malaria epidemics in Africa.
CT spoke to Powers and Stevens about how Christians should approach issues of life or death.