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March 26, 2008

Potential Penalties for Health Care Professionals Who Refuse to Work During a Pandemic

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Health Law & Policy Program, Seton Hall Law School, Newark, New Jersey (Mr Coleman); and Department of Ethics, Equity, Trade & Human Rights, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland (Dr Reis).

JAMA. 2008;299(12):1471-1473. doi:10.1001/jama.299.12.1471

The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic and the spread of avian influenza have generated renewed interest in health care professionals' (HCPs’) obligations to work during a pandemic. However, most discussions of this issue have occurred on a relatively abstract level of ethical analysis, with less attention to what should actually happen to HCPs who are unwilling to work. Should HCPs who refuse to work be fired from their jobs? Should they lose their licenses? Should they go to jail?