Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 17(2) April 2014 : 44-51.doi:10.12927/hcq.2014.23833
Healthcare Ethics

Identifying Prioritization Criteria to Supplement Critical Care Triage Protocols for the Allocation of Ventilators during a Pandemic Influenza

Shawn Winsor, Cécile M. Bensimon, Robert Sibbald, Kyle Anstey, Paula Chidwick, Kevin Coughlin, Peter Cox, Robert Fowler, Dianne Godkin, Rebecca A. Greenberg and Randi Zlotnik Shaul


The purpose of this study was to identify supplementary criteria to provide direction when the Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic (OHPIP) critical care triage protocol is rendered insufficient by its inability to discriminate among patients assessed as urgent, and there are insufficient critical care resources available to treat those in that category. To accomplish this task, a Supplementary Criteria Task Force for Critical Care Triage was struck at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. The task force reviewed publically available protocols and policies on pandemic flu planning, identified 13 potential triage criteria and determined a set of eight key ethical, legal and practical considerations against which it assessed each criterion. An online questionnaire was distributed to clinical, policy and community stakeholders across Canada to obtain feedback on the 13 potential triage criteria toward selecting those that best met the eight considerations.

The task force concluded that the balance of arguments favoured only two of the 13 criteria it had identified for consideration: first come, first served and random selection. The two criteria were chosen in part based on a need to balance the clearly utilitarian approach employed in the OHPIP with equity considerations. These criteria serve as a defensible "fail safe" mechanism for any triage protocol.



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