Duty to provide care to Ebola patients: the perspectives of Guinean lay people and healthcare providers

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Abstract

Aim

To examine the views of Guinean lay people and healthcare providers (HCPs) regarding the acceptability of HCPs’ refusal to provide care to Ebola patients.

Method

From October to December 2015, lay people (n=252) and HCPs (n=220) in Conakry, Guinea, were presented with 54 sample case scenarios depicting a HCP who refuses to provide care to Ebola patients and were instructed to rate the extent to which this HCP’s decision is morally acceptable. The scenarios were composed by systematically varying the levels of four factors: (1) the risk of getting infected, (2) the HCP’s working conditions, (3) the HCP’s family responsibilities and (4) the HCP’s professional status.

Results

Five clusters were identified: (1) 18% of the participants expressed the view that HCPs have an unlimited obligation to provide care to Ebola patients; (2) 38% held that HCPs’ duty to care is a function of HCPs’ working conditions; (3) 9% based their judgments on a combination of risk level, family responsibilities and working conditions; (4) 23% considered that HCPs do not have an obligation to provide care and (5) 12% did not take a position.

Conclusion

Only a small minority of Guinean lay people and HCPs consider that HCPs’ refusal to provide care to Ebola patients is always unacceptable. The most commonly endorsed position is that HCPs’ duty to provide care to Ebola patients is linked to society’s reciprocal duty to provide them with the working conditions needed to fulfil their professional duty.

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