An ethics framework for making resource allocation decisions within clinical care: Responding to COVID-19


Angus Dawson, David Isaacs, Melanie Jansen, Christopher Jordens, Ian Kerridge, Ulrik Kihlbom, Henry Kilham, Anne Preisz, Linda Sheahan, George Skowronski

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, volume 17, pages 749–755, 2020. DOI:

On March, 24, 2020, 818 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in New South Wales, Australia, and new cases were increasing at an exponential rate. In anticipation of resource constraints arising in clinical settings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a working party of ten ethicists (seven clinicians and three full-time academics) was convened at the University of Sydney to draft an ethics framework to support resource allocation decisions. The framework guides decision-makers using a question-and-answer format, in language that avoids philosophical and medical technicality. The working party met five times over the following week and then submitted a draft Framework for consideration by two groups of intensivists and one group of academic ethicists. It was also presented to a panel on a national current affairs programme. The Framework was then revised on the basis of feedback from these sources and made publicly available online on April 3, ten days after the initial meeting. The framework is published here in full to stimulate ongoing discussion about rapid development of user-friendly clinical ethics resources in ongoing and future pandemics.

See also – Building an ethics framework for COVID-19 resource allocation: The How and the Why

Related Cross-cutting Themes

  • Ethics