Holding Civic Medicine Accountable: Will Morreim's Liability Scheme Work in a Disaster?
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2003 June; 28(3): 339-357
In Holding Health Care Accountable, E. Haavi Morreim differentiates between duties of expertise and resource duties, arguing for tort liability respecting the former and contract liability respecting the latter. Though Morreim's book addresses ordinary clinical medicine, her liability scheme may also be relevant elsewhere. Focusing on disaster medicine, and especially the medical management of violent mass disasters (e.g., where terrorists have deployed weapons of mass destruction), I argue in this essay that Morreim's classification of duties still fits, but that it is difficult to hold government powers accountable for their many resource and expertise duties. This difficulty is compounded by political arrangements that foist under-funded mandates for disaster services on healthcare providers. As a result of such arrangements, hospitals and clinicians are prone to liability for expenditures and clinical interventions that are beyond their scope. This problem can be mitigated, I argue, by examining and clarifying the apparent social compact between society and healthcare.
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