By Beatrice Brown
There is currently a dire shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at hospitals across the United States, especially in areas that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19.
PPE is essential to protecting those on the front lines of the pandemic – the President of the American Medical Association (AMA) has said that without adequate PPE, we may face a shortage of clinicians to treat COVID-19 patients, in addition to other shortages of critical resources.
Without adequate PPE, are clinicians morally obligated to provide care to patients who are either presumed positive for COVID-19 or who definitely have the virus?
Here, I argue that to treat patients without adequate PPE is supererogatory but not obligatory. In other words, this is a noble and praiseworthy act, but clinicians should not be obligated to perform these heroic acts, nor should we blame them, morally, for their decision to refuse to provide care.