“Crisis standards of care” is defined as a substantial change in usual healthcare operations and the level of care it is possible to deliver, which is made necessary by a pervasive (e.g., pandemic influenza) or catastrophic (e.g., earthquake, hurricane) disaster. This change in the level of care delivered is justified by specific circumstances and is formally declared by a state government, in recognition that crisis operations will be in effect for a sustained period. The formal declaration that crisis standards of care are in operation enables specific legal/regulatory powers and protections for healthcare providers in the necessary tasks of allocating and using scarce medical resources and implementing alternate care facility operations.

To ensure that the utmost care possible is provided to patients in a catastrophic event, the nation needs a robust system to guide the public, healthcare professionals and institutions, and governmental entities at all levels. To achieve such a system of just care, the committee sets forth the following vision for crisis standards of care:

  • Fairness—standards that are, to the highest degree possible, recognized as fair by all those affected by them – including the members of affected communities, practitioners, and provider organizations, evidence based and responsive to specific needs of individuals and the population focused on a duty of compassion and care, a duty to steward resources, and a goal of maintaining the trust of patients and the community

  • Equitable processes—processes and procedures for ensuring that decisions and implementation of standards are made equitably

    • Transparency—in design and decision making

    • Consistency—in application across populations and among individuals regardless of their human condition (e.g., race, age, disability, ethnicity, ability to pay, socioeconomic status, preexisting health conditions, social worth, perceived obstacles to treatment, past use of resources)

    • Proportionality—public and individual requirements must be commensurate with the scale of the emergency and degree of scarce resources

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