Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Canadians willing to give up rights to combat flu:

SEPTEMBER 23, 2009

Canadians are bullish on giving government officials permission to restrict personal freedoms in a flu pandemic, with half of those surveyed agreeing that violation of a quarantine order would be tantamount to manslaughter.

As well, 90 per cent of Canadians surveyed for a research report in pandemic ethics believe doctors and nurses have an obligation to report to work during a pandemic, provided safety precautions are in place.

Almost half -- 48 per cent --say that health care workers who do not show up for work without a legitimate excuse should be fired or lose their professional licenses.

The survey, conducted for the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, is based on a random sample of 500 Canadians surveyed by phone, and nearly 100 more via a series of town hall meetings. The survey was taken between August 2008 to February 2009 -- just before the H1N1 outbreak began in April.

The town halls straddled the start.

Both were designed to inject the public's voice into debates usually left to the experts, and the results come as officials brace for an anticipated second wave of H1N1 flu.

Researchers are warning that the serious ethical challenges that could accompany a pandemic need to be thought through now, while there's still time to respond.

"There's going to be a lot of uncertainty to decision making, even in a mild pandemic," says Dr. Ross Upshur, director of the U of T bioethics centre, which Wednesday released a series of research papers on pandemic ethics.

But while the survey found broad support for quarantine and isolation in a pandemic, the report says high levels of public trust and communication will be essential in managing a flu crisis. Poor communication contributed to the confusion and spread of the SARS virus in 2003.

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