Ethical guidelines for the treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Author Department

Patient Care Services

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



This white paper provides basic ethical guidelines for treating patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It responds to the need from healthcare organizations to address the moral considerations inherent to caring for this patient population, particularly in the context of scarce resource allocation, the imposition of limits to individual freedoms, and de facto social distancing. These guidelines are not narrowly prescriptive, but recognize the need of decision makers to transform this guidance into specific decisions. Ethical decision making assumes that such judgments will be based on current scientific knowledge, that effectiveness of interventions is carefully assessed, and that transparency of the process is evident. As specific decisions are considered, processes should be in place for identifying which ethical issues were addressed, how guidelines were used, how decisions affected the community, and what lessons can be shared with other decision makers. In this way, these guidelines will continue to be an interactive, working document.