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Feature | April 7, 2020

Doctors Making Life and Death Choices over Coronavirus Patients and Moral Injury

By Neil Shortland (Minerva)

Recent articles by Minerva-funded researcher, Neil Shortland discuss the consequences that doctors may face after having to choose who among their COVID-19 patients live and who dies. Shortland’s DoD-funded research is focused on military decision-making. His work looks at how people make decisions that involve multiple potentially negative outcomes and how to train people to make the “least-worst” decisions, rather than avoid the decision. His research has highlighted the link between having to make a least-worst decision and a form of psychological trauma referred to as moral injury - witness or engage in acts that transgress their own morals or beliefs. These findings can be related to those medical professionals who are on the front lines that may be increasingly forced to make life-altering, least-worst decisions. It would require many of them to violate values that are held as sacred. Nonetheless, it important to protect the medical staff during the fight against COVID-19.