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Worst Case BioethicsDeath, Disaster, and Public Health$
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George J. Annas

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391732

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195391732.001.0001

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State of Emergency

State of Emergency

(p.27) 3 State of Emergency
Worst Case Bioethics

George J. Annas

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the state of emergency as an all-purpose excuse for doing whatever one believes is right, whether government official, practicing physician, or simply a person wanting to help. The primary goal of almost all emergency responses is to save lives, and in the case of a national emergency—sometimes called a national security emergency—to ensure the survival of the state as well. An important question is whether certain individuals or professions should be granted prospective legal immunity for helping their fellow humans in an emergency situation. This chapter first considers the idea that, faced with a massive emergency, health professionals will not be able to provide their usual standard of care and should operate instead under a reduced “catastrophic standard of care.” It then turns to the case of Sidney Miller and what the law says about whether physicians in emergencies are permitted to err on the side of the preservation of life (to avoid the worst-case scenario of death). It also examines the legal regime about life and death decisions.

Keywords:   state of emergency, national emergency, legal immunity, health professionals, standard of care, Sidney Miller, law, physicians, life and death decisions

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