MCHCE builds ethical frameworks to guide its Sponsors’ decisions as they navigate complex ethical challenges like drug shortages and mandating health care worker vaccination.  MCHCE was at the forefront of developing key ethical guidance on resource allocation in a severe influenza pandemic.

Ebola, like pandemic influenza and other disease epidemics, raises the question of how to allocate scarce health resources to protect population health.  MCHCE’s ground-breaking work on the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project, and much of what we’ve published, can inform other disaster planning efforts.


The Community-Wide Vaccine Project and the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project

At our Sponsors’ request, in 2005 we initiated a community-wide project to develop ethical guidance for rationing scarce vaccines during a severe influenza pandemic. We convened an ethics work group of 35 experts in health care ethics, public health, infectious disease, health care administration, spirituality and faith, journalism, economics, law, and community service. This group’s recommendations were issued in 2006 and published in Vaccine the following year.

The success of MCHCE’s work inspired the Minnesota Department of Health to request proposals to develop ethical guidance for statewide rationing of a wider range of essential health-related resources during a pandemic. MCHCE was awarded a contract to conduct the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project. In 2007 we convened a broad-based community panel of over 100 experts to recommend ethical frameworks for rationing antivirals (treatment and prevention), N95 respirators, surgical masks, vaccines and mechanical respirators during a severe influenza pandemic. The expert panel was followed by an extensive public engagement effort, ultimately engaging over 600 Minnesotans from Worthington to Duluth on the topic. Read the Report here.

Vawter DE, Garrett JE, Gervais KG, et al. For The Good Of Us All: Ethically Rationing Health Resources In Minnesota In A Severe Influenza Pandemic. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics and University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics; 2010.

We also published on this and related topics in a variety of peer-reviewed publications:

  • Vawter DE, Garrett JE, Gervais KG et al. Attending to social vulnerability when rationing pandemic resources. J Clin Ethics. 2011(1):42-53.
  • Garrett JE, Vawter DE, Gervais KG et al. The Minnesota pandemic ethics project: Sequenced, robust public engagement process. J Participat Med. 2011;3(6).
  • Vawter DE, Garrett JE, Gervais KG et al. Dueling ethical frameworks for allocating health resources. Am J Bioeth. 2010;10(4):54-56.
  • Garrett JE, Vawter DE, Prehn AW, DeBruin DA, Gervais KG. Listen! the value of public engagement in pandemic ethics. Am J Bioeth. 2009;9(11):17-19.
  • Vawter DE, Garrett JE, Prehn AW, Gervais KG. Health care workers’ willingness to work in a pandemic. Am J Bioeth. 2008;8(8):21-23.
  • Garrett JE, Vawter DE, Prehn AW, DeBruin DA, Gervais KG. Ethical considerations in pandemic influenza planning. Minn Med. 2008;91(4):37-39.