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Values identified to guide pandemic response

5 July 2006

Feedback sought on values identified to guide pandemic response

The Minister of Health’s independent advisor on ethical issues is seeking the public’s feedback on values to guide planning and response to a potential pandemic.

The National Ethics Advisory Committee (NEAC) today released a discussion document which describes widely shared ethical values to govern how and what decisions are made in the event of an influenza pandemic.

“To prepare ourselves for a potential pandemic, one thing we should do is to think through our values – the things that matter to us. This would give us a shared basis for making decisions,”NEAC chair Andrew Moore said.

“Identifying our shared values now might also help us to act quickly and adapt well later, when there may be less time,” he added.

Ethical considerations have been factored into pandemic planning in line with a recommendation from the World Health Organisation.

A study conducted following the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in late 2002 found that decisions guided by ethical values could help instil and maintain public trust in decision-makers in crisis situations.

In the discussion document, a good decision-maker is described as one who is inclusive, open, reasonable, responsive and responsible.

Good decisions, on the other hand, are those that seek to minimise harm and are marked by respect, fairness, neighbourliness/whanaungatanga, reciprocity and unity/kotahitanga.

The discussion document includes two hypothetical cases: a community response to a pandemic and a hospital-based case. The community case is based on the actual response of New Zealanders to the 1918 pandemic.

“We are seeking feedback from the public to help make this a better statement of the shared values of New Zealanders that are relevant to pandemic decision-making” Dr Moore explained.

In particular, NEAC would like to determine whether the scope of the statement of values is appropriate, whether the values it has identified are those the public feels are important in planning for and responding to a pandemic, and whether the statement of values can be made more usable.

The public, particularly organisations involved in pandemic planning and communities that may be affected by a potential pandemic, is invited to submit their comments by August 16.

ENDS

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