Researchers in Maryland consult the public in planning for health disasters

August 20, 2016

In preparation to make recommendations to state officials that could serve as a national model for prioritizing patients in the event of a disaster, Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison, a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues have listened as hundreds of citizens discuss whether a doctor could remove one patient from lifesaving equipment to make way for another who might have a better chance of recovering, or take age into consideration in setting priorities. At least 18 states from New York to California, and numerous hospitals have developed such protocols. Some efforts have received funding from a federal program supporting hospital preparedness. In Maryland, participants in the forums tended to favor saving the most lives or years of life by prioritizing people who were expected to survive their current illness or live the longest after being treated. However, many also said that a lottery or first-come-first-served approach would be appropriate for patients who had roughly equal chances of benefiting.