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Control of Infectious Diseases

 

Dr Ross Upshur, Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, delivering the keynote address at the Council's conference Ethical Dilemmas in a Pandemic.
Dr. Upshur chaired the World Health Organisation (WHO) working group on the role and obligations of health-care workers during an outbreak of pandemic influenza.
  


Ethical Dilemmas in a Pandemic


Given the threat of an avian flu pandemic, the Council held a conference on 17 October 2006 to facilitate a discussion of the ethical issues pertaining to the control of infectious disease. The Council invited a multidisciplinary group of distinguished international speakers to address the following questions:

  • How far do healthcare workers' duties extend in a life threatening pandemic situation, and what are they due in return for their efforts?
  • To what extent should measures taken to protect public health override individual freedoms (e.g., quarantine and travel restrictions)?
  • How will scarce resources be distributed among the public? Who will be prioritised, and why?
  • What is the pandemic plan in Ireland?
  • What obligations do developed countries have to assist poorer nations in the event of a global pandemic?
  • What role will the media play in communicating sensitive information to the public?
  • How can public compliance with the restrictions necessary to minimise the toll of a pandemic be achieved?

Pictured (from left to right): Mr Dermot Gleeson SC, Chair of the Irish Council for Bioethics; Professor Cliona O'Farrelly, immunologist and member of the Council; Mr Donncha O'Connell, Dean of the NUI Galway Faculty of Law and former Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; and Dr Marcel Verweij, Chair of the WHO working group on equitable access to treatment in an influenza pandemic.

Conference Programme

ETHICAL DILEMMAS IN A PANDEMIC

Cliona O'Farrelly, School of Medicine and Medical Science, UCD

Keynote Lecture
From SARS to Bird Flu: the Canadian Experience
Ross Upshur, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto


Session I: Ethical Dilemmas

Individual Freedoms vs. Public Good
Donncha O'Connell, Faculty of Law, NUI Galway
Priority Setting: the Allocation of Scarce Resources
Marcel Verweij, Ethiek Instituut, Universiteit of Utrecht


Session II: Ethical Considerations in Pandemic Planning

Pandemic Planning: the European Perspective
Jan Semenza, European Centre for Disease Control
Pandemic Planning in Ireland
Darina O'Flanagan, Health Protection Surveillance Centre
International Collaboration: Ethical Challenges
Steven Thomas, Global Health, School of Medicine, TCD 


Session III: Communication

Risk Communication: Media Issues
Brian Trench, School of Communications, DCU
Public Risk Perception
Noel Sheehy, School of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University

Full programme available here...

Conference Proceedings

Pandemic Conference ProceedingsThe Council has published the proceedings of the conference
Ethical Dilemmas in a Pandemic
click here to download the proceedings

If you would like to receive the proceedings in hardcopy, please e-mail your postal address to info'at'bioethics.ie (replace 'at' with @) with 'pandemic conference proceedings' in the subject line. 


Pictured (from left to right): Dr Jan Semenza, Senior Advisor at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; Dr Darina O'Flanagan, Director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and member of the Council; Dr Steven Thomas, lecturer in Health Policy and Management at Trinity College Dublin; and Mr Brian Trench, Head of Dublin City University School of Communications.

Public Survey


Debate and discussion at the conference garnered the views and recommendations of experts and stakeholders with regards to the issues, both ethical and practical, which need to be addressed in planning for and responding to pandemic disease outbreaks. However, the ICB also felt it was important to gauge the views of the general public on such issues, since effective planning and management of pandemic outbreaks depends not only on the coordination of government and public officials, but also on the involvement and cooperation of the general public. Such public cooperation can be enhanced through fair, transparent and ethical decision-making.

With this in mind the ICB, in conjunction with TNS MRBI (via their telephone omnibus, TNS MRBI PhoneBus®), conducted a survey to examine public awareness, understanding and concern about influenza, including the perceived causes, treatments and consequences of a pandemic. The survey was conducted in March 2007 and involved 1,005 adults of 15 years and over who were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. The results of the survey are published as an appendix to the conference proceedings.

Media Coverage


12th October - Quantum Leap, RTE, Programme 6, Siobhan O'Sullivan, Director of the Council for Bioethics, on an up coming conference on the ethics of pandemics.
Listen to the clip... (RealPlayer required)

16th October - Today with Pat Kenny, RTE, interview with Dr. Ross Upshur.

17th October - Six One News, RTE, Irish flu preparations questioned, Fergal Bowers, Health Correspodent, reports on a conference on the threat posed by an influenza pandemic.
Watch the clip... (RealPlayer required) 

17th October - Nine News, RTE, Warning over 'Gap' in Irish Plans for Flu Pandemic.
Watch the clip... (RealPlayer required)

18th October - Irish Independent, Health, State has no Power to Deal with Flu Pandemic, Eilish O'Regan and Dearbhail McDonald.
Read the article... (free registration required)

18th October - Irish Times, HomeNews, Constitution could Inhibit Pandemic Action, Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor.
Read the article... (a subscription to the Irish Times is required)

18th October - Irish Times, HomeNews, Projections for Bird Flu Deaths Revised Upwards, Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor.

Read the article... (a subscription to the Irish Times is required)

23rd October - Irish Medical News, This Week's News, Flu Preparedness due for European Assassment, Gary Finnegan.

24th October - Irish Times, Health Supplement, Creating Laws for a Pandemic, Heart Beat, Maurice Neligan.

Read the article... (a subscription to the Irish Times is required)

24th October - Medicine Weekly, Medics could refuse to work during flu pandemic
Read the article...

Conference Photographs


Professor Cliona O'Farrelly, immunologist and member of the Council, explaining some of the scientific aspects of infectious disease to the audience.

Mr Donncha O'Connell, Dean of the NUI Galway Faculty of Law and former Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, addressed the constitutional issues concerning the control of a pandemic.

Pictured listening to Dr. Steven Thomas's presentation (from left to right): Dr. Jan Semenza, Senior Advisor at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; Dr Darina O'Flanagan, Director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and member of the Council; and Professor Richard O'Kennedy, Director of the DCU Applied Biochemistry Group and member of the Council.

Mr Stephen McMahon (right), Chairman of the Irish Patients Association and member of the Council, chairing the session on communication, and Mr Brian Trench (left) who spoke about the role of the media in risk communication.

 

Scientific Overview of Disease Pandemics