Few states addressing pandemic flu ethical issues, report says

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, few U.S. states have addressed ethical issues surrounding pandemic flu preparedness in recent years.
The study's authors also found that the states have addressed the issues narrowly, typically only allocating scarce hospital resources while mostly ignoring issues such as community engagement surrounding isolation and quarantine plans, CIDRAP News reports.
Researchers Siobhan Young and James C. Thomas from the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina secured plans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and searched headings and subheadings for "ethics" and other relevant keywords in 2010. If a state did have recommendations on ethics preparedness, the researchers followed up with phone calls to gather additional specifics. They were addressing progress made after a 2007 survey by Thomas and his colleagues that found states wanting in the areas of ethics and pandemic preparedness. Their current study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers noted that only one out of 21 recent state-sponsored pandemic flu summits - North Carolina - had an ethics discussion on the agenda. Six states – Iowa, Indiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – had their own ethical decision making guidelines and three others - Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin - referred visitors to CDC guidelines, CIDRAP News reports. Seven states made recommendations to further develop ethics-related policies or capacities following the July 2008 national meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and six of those states – South Carolina, New York, North Carolina, Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa – created a task force to make recommendations. The seventh state, California, listed eight ethical and legal recommendations but had not acted on implementing them.
"The sense of urgency for pandemic influenza preparation, including ethical considerations, seems to have passed," the authors wrote, according to CIDRAP News. "In a pandemic of highly pathogenic influenza, there will be little time to sort out complicated issues such as the particular values or needs of minority populations."