The Centre for Ethics assisted Estonian hospitals in drafting guidelines for crises

The Centre for Ethics at the University of Tartu together with the ethics committees of Estonia's two largest hospitals, the North Estonia Medical Centre and the Tartu University Hospital, developed 12 recommendations for distribution of limited health care resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The developed recommendations offer doctors and hospitals an ethically considered code of conduct to rely on, when a situation should be reached in Estonia when there are not enough hospital beds, intensive care beds and breathing apparatus for all those in need. “The prepared recommendations are like a moral compass for medical staff in case difficult decisions have to be made,” explained Prof. Margit Sutrop, Head of the Ethics Center of the University of Tartu, who led the preparation of the guidelines.

“Currently, there is hope that the situation in Estonia will not get so dire that the guideline should be actively implemented,” she added. “The drafting of the guideline was rather proactive, but it ensures that doctors know what to follow when making hard decisions if the situation worsens,” said Sutrop. Contributing to the writing of practical recommendations on clinical ethics is the contribution of philosophers at a time when many Estonian researchers in various fields are coming together to support the country to overcome the crisis.

According to the guidelines, critical decisions must be made together consulting with a council of doctors - i.e. each triage decision is made with the participation of several doctors. All decisions must be argumented, documented and communicated to loved ones. The Estonian guidelines also emphasize that all patients have equal opportunities and no one is discriminated against. Communication guidelines are also set out separately: medical professionals are reminded that even when transmitting bad news, they must be empathetic, supportive and humane.

The instructions can be read HERE.