The Minnesota Medical Association's magazine "Minnesota Medicine" recently published a primer on the
Minnesota COVID-19 Ethics Collaborative (MCEC) written by the initiative's co-leaders Debra DeBruin, PhD, Center for Bioethics director and Susan M. Wolf, JD, chair of the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Here is an excerpt from the piece:
The inspiration for MCEC arose from two previous projects to develop ethical guidance for public health emergencies in Minnesota, both sponsored by and completed in partnership with MDH: the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project and Ethical Considerations for Crisis Standards of Care. Both projects recommended that MDH establish an ethics support process at the state level to provide guidance in real time during a crisis. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Debra DeBruin, who co-led both of the two previous projects, offered to help MDH develop such capacity. The SHCC and MHA quickly joined the effort, and the MCEC co-leads began to work with these partners to build the team and develop the process for ethics support.
MCEC aims to help the state and its health professionals navigate ethical challenges arising in the COVID-19 pandemic. As MCEC began work in March, cases and hospitalizations were increasing. Members shared a concern that the state’s health system could become too overwhelmed to be able to provide critical care resources to all patients who need them. In addition, any new therapeutics developed could initially be in scarce supply.
Consistent with the established ethics guidance in the state, the framework that MCEC developed on the allocation of ventilators and scarce critical care resources in the COVID-19 pandemic balances three fundamental objectives: protecting the public’s health, respecting individuals and groups and striving for fairness while protecting against inequity. So, while the framework endorses allocating ventilators to save the most lives possible, it also incorporates many protections for rights, fairness and equity. For example, the framework contains protections against discrimination and bias, forbidding rationing by factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, citizenship or immigration status or socioeconomic status. Debra DeBruin, PhD & Susan Wolf, JD