Ethical challenges in preparing for bioterrorism: Barriers within the health care system

Matthew K. Wynia, Lawrence O. Gostin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Preparedness for bioterrorism poses significant ethical challenges. Although public health ethics and preparedness have received attention recently, health care ethics must also be considered. In epidemics, the health care system assists public health in 3 tasks: detection, containment, and treatment. Detection might fail if all patients do not have access to care, or if physicians do not understand their obligation to report infectious diseases to public health authorities. Containment might fail if physicians view themselves only as advocates for individual patients, ignoring their social obligations as health professionals. Treatment might fail if physicians do not accept their professional duty to treat patients during epidemics. Each of these potential ethical barriers to preparedness must be addressed by physicians and society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1096-1102
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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