A video of a presentation by Dr Erin Smith during the Community Resilience Stream of the 2016 People in Disasters Conference. The presentation is titled, "A Qualitative Study of Paramedic Duty to Treat During Disaster Response".
The abstract for this presentation reads as follows:
Disasters place unprecedented demands on emergency medical services and test paramedic personal commitment to the health care profession. Despite this challenge, legal guidelines, professional codes of ethics and ambulance service management guidelines are largely silent on the issue of professional obligations during disasters. They provide little to no guidance on what is expected of paramedics or how they ought to approach their duty to treat in the face of risk. This research explores how paramedics view their duty to treat during disasters. Reasons that may limit or override such a duty are examined. Understanding these issues is important in enabling paramedics to make informed and defensible decisions during disasters. The authors employed qualitative methods to gather Australian paramedic perspectives. Participants' views were analysed and organised according to three emerging themes: the scope of individual paramedic obligations, the role and obligations of ambulance services, and the broader ethical context. Our findings suggest that paramedic decisions around duty to treat will largely depend on their individual perception of risk and competing obligations. A reciprocal obligation is expected of paramedic employers. Ambulance services need to provide their employees with the best current information about risks in order to assist paramedics in making defensible decisions in difficult circumstances. Education plays a key role in providing paramedics with an understanding and appreciation of fundamental professional obligations by focusing attention on both the medical and ethical challenges involved with disaster response. Finally, codes of ethics might be useful, but ultimately paramedic decisions around professional obligations will largely depend on their individual risk assessment, perception of risk, and personal value systems.