Legal challenges to ICU triage decisions in the COVID-19 pandemic: How effectively does the law regulate bedside rationing decisions in Australia?

Article


Close, Eliana, Young, Simon, Cockburn, Tina, Willmott, Lindy and White, Ben P.. 2021. "Legal challenges to ICU triage decisions in the COVID-19 pandemic: How effectively does the law regulate bedside rationing decisions in Australia?" University of New South Wales Law Journal. 44 (1), pp. 9-59. https://doi.org/10.53637/FSJG1698
Article Title

Legal challenges to ICU triage decisions in the COVID-19 pandemic: How effectively does the law regulate bedside rationing decisions in Australia?

ERA Journal ID33965
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsClose, Eliana (Author), Young, Simon (Author), Cockburn, Tina (Author), Willmott, Lindy (Author) and White, Ben P. (Author)
Journal TitleUniversity of New South Wales Law Journal
Journal Citation44 (1), pp. 9-59
Number of Pages51
Year2021
PublisherUniversity of New South Wales
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN0313-0096
1447-7297
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.53637/FSJG1698
Web Address (URL)https://www.unswlawjournal.unsw.edu.au/article/legal-challenges-to-icu-triage-decisions-in-the-covid-19-pandemic-how-effectively-does-the-law-regulate-bedside-rationing-decisions-in-australia/
Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the difficult question of how to ration scarce intensive care resources when a health system is overwhelmed. Despite substantial ethical scholarship addressing these rationing decisions, little is known about the legal position in Australia. This article considers various legal challenges in response to a clinical scenario denying intensive care admission and a ventilator to a critically ill patient with COVID-19. The article considers key challenges in negligence, criminal law, administrative law, human rights law, and under the parens patriae jurisdiction and guardianship legislation, and how they would apply to this scenario. The article concludes that while there are many obstacles to a successful legal challenge, the law can provide important scrutiny and guidance in the design of decision-making processes and triage policies. To adequately protect individual interests, the article supports calls in the ethical literature to make these policies transparent for public scrutiny.

KeywordsCOVID-19; policy; triage; risk; rationing; resources; challenges
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420306. Health care administration
480605. Tort law
480701. Administrative law
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Byline AffiliationsQueensland University of Technology
School of Law and Justice
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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