Ethical Issues in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic; A Narrative Review
At present, the biggest challenge to health and economic systems around the world is the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic. Several ethical questions have been raised at the macro-, meso- and micro-levels with respect to proper management and control of this pandemic. The most important factor in creating fear and public anxiety and disturbances of social functions is the fatalities caused by the epidemic by an unknown pathogen in most countries. Decisions for epidemic control measures are made among many uncertainties, and prioritize public health over individual rights. People's trust and compliance with recommendations play a decisive role in public actions. Therefore, during an epidemic, necessities such as adherence to the values of honesty, respect, human dignity, solidarity, justice, reciprocity, transparency, and responsiveness in the response system need to be considered. The major ethical considerations in macro and micro levels of decision-making responding to the COVID-19 will be reviewed in this paper. Ethical dilemmas arise in different domains of a pandemic such as restriction on freedom of movement, individual’s refusal of preventive or therapeutic interventions, health care workers’ rights and duty to care, the allocation of scarce resources, off-label use of diagnostic and therapeutic measures and research. The purpose of this article is to pay attention to ethical principles in solving these challenges and does not necessarily respond to all ethical problems; however, it draws the reader's attention and moral sensitivity to the issues raised in this area.
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