Diminishing returns? Risk and the duty to care in the SARS epidemic

Bioethics. 2005 Aug;19(4):348-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2005.00448.x.


The seriousness of the risk that healthcare workers faced during SARS, and their response of service in the face of this risk, brings to light unrealistic assumptions about duty and risk that informed the debate on duty to care in the early years of HIV/AIDS. Duty to care is not based upon particular virtues of the health professions, but arises from social reflection on what response to an epidemic would be consistent with our values and our needs, recognizing our shared vulnerability to disease and death. Such reflection underwrites a strong duty of care, but one not to be borne solely by the altruism and heroism of individual healthcare workers.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics
  • Ethical Analysis*
  • Ethics, Professional
  • HIV Infections / therapy
  • Health Personnel / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Physicians / ethics
  • Refusal to Treat / ethics*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / therapy*
  • Virtues