Rationing in pediatric hospitalizations during COVID-19: A step back to move forward

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The latest Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has itself created a novel situation—bringing attention to the topic of healthcare rationing among hospitalized pediatric patients. This may be the first time that many pediatricians, nurses, parents, and public health officials have been compelled to engage in uncomfortable discussions about the allocation of medical care/resources. Simply put, finite budgets, resources, and a dwindling healthcare workforce do not permit all patients to receive unlimited medical care. Triage and bedside rationing decisions are happening in a range of difficult everyday circumstances both implicitly and explicitly, but in ways not recognized by even the best ethically framed intentions. Clinicians and hospital administrators have largely been left on their own “to flatten the rationing curve” in hopes that resources never have to be explicitly rationed at their facility. Unfortunately, the downstream result is a misinformed and distrustful public (i.e. parents, guardians, and caregivers) filled with people who are already burdened with inflammatory pseudoscience narratives and deficits in health literacy. This paper aims to elevate a more thoughtful conversation about healthcare rationing by analyzing some existing ethical principles/framework developed for rationing decision making during previous emergency responses and drawing from the day-to-day clinical perspectives of a frontline pediatric acute care/hospitalist.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3-6
Number of pages4
JournalClinical Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date18 Apr 2022
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • clinical ethics
  • public health
  • Bioethics
  • medical ethics
  • health care


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