hospital equipment, including heart rate monitor and oxygen monitor functioning at bedside.

The Ethical Allocation of Scarce Resources in the US During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Bioethics

By Beatrice Brown

Critical resources for handling the COVID-19 pandemic, including ventilators and ICU beds, are quickly becoming scarce in the US as the number and density of infections continue to rise. Leading bioethicists have crafted guidelines for the ethical rationing of these scarce resources during the pandemic. On March 16, The Hastings Center published “Ethical Framework for Health Care Institutions and Guidelines for Institutional Ethics Services Responding to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic,” detailing three ethical duties for health care leaders: 1) duty to plan; 2) duty to safeguard; and 3) duty to guide. The report also contains a compilation of materials on resource and ventilator allocation.

More recently, on March 23, two insightful pieces were published in the New England Journal of Medicine: “The Toughest Triage — Allocating Ventilators in a Pandemic” by Truog, Mitchell, and Daley, and “Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of Covid-19” by Emanuel et al. These two pieces complement each other well and lay a crucial foundation for the inevitable resource allocation that clinicians and hospitals will be forced to practice in the coming weeks. As such, here, I summarize the central takeaways from these two articles while understanding their recommendations in tandem, as well as reflect on the importance of bioethics during these times of medical crisis and how the work of this field must adapt to changing circumstances. Read More

TeleSitters are entering hospital rooms. How will they change patient care?

By Adriana Krasniansky

In many medical circumstances, clinicians and caregivers may choose not to leave a patient alone. For example, a patient may present a fall risk, experience confusion and agitation, or be at risk of self-harm.  Traditionally, in such situations, a hospital assigns the patient a sitter, or a caregiver who provides patients patient supervision and companionship. 

The need for sitters in hospital settings is rising, as patient loads increase and fewer patients have family members who are able to stay with them for long periods of time. Sitters are also a considerable investment for hospitals; one community hospital reported employing 14 sitters a day, totaling $425,000 in costs annually. Many healthcare networks are exploring the possibility of TeleSitters, or virtual monitoring systems to support patient care. In this article, we review the national adoption of TeleSitters and point out benefits and considerations to their implementation.  Read More