Ambulance Diversion: Ethical Dilema and Necessary Evil

Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Jun;33(6):820-1. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2015.03.007. Epub 2015 Mar 12.


Ambulance diversion presents a dilemma pitting the ethical principles of patient autonomy and beneficence against the principles of justice and nonmaleficence. The guiding priority in requesting ambulance diversion is to maintain the safety of all patients in the emergency department as well as those waiting to be seen. Policies and procedures can be developed that maintain the best possible outcome for patients transported by ambulance during periods of diversion. More importantly, the discussion must focus on addressing the operational inefficiencies within our health systems that lead to conditions such as patient boarding, high waiting room congestion, and ambulance diversion. Addressing these inefficiencies has a greater potential impact on ambulance diversion than simply banning or restricting the practice for practical or ethical considerations.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Ambulance Diversion / ethics*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / ethics*
  • Humans