Public Health. 2009 Mar;123(3):255-9. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2008.12.005. Epub 2009 Feb 14.


This paper explains the ethical importance of infectious diseases, and reviews four major ethical issues associated with pandemic influenza: the obligation of individuals to avoid infecting others, healthcare workers' 'duty to treat', allocation of scarce resources, and coercive social distancing measures. In each case, ways in which the ethical issues turn on both philosophical and empirical questions are highlighted. The paper concludes that ethicists should play a greater role in identifying ethically important empirical questions, and that scientists should take the ethical as well as the scientific importance of such questions into consideration when choosing research projects.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks / ethics*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Health Care Rationing / ethics*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Patient Rights
  • Quarantine / ethics*