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Ethical Challenges in Emergency Medical Services: Controversies and Recommendations

  • Torben K. Becker (a1), Marianne Gausche-Hill (a2), Andrew L. Aswegan (a3), Eileen F. Baker (a4), Kelly J. Bookman (a5), Richard N. Bradley (a6), Robert A. De Lorenzo (a7) and David J. Schoenwetter (a8)...


Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers face many ethical issues while providing prehospital care to children and adults. Although provider judgment plays a large role in the resolution of conflicts at the scene, it is important to establish protocols and policies, when possible, to address these high-risk and complex situations. This article describes some of the common situations with ethical underpinnings encountered by EMS personnel and managers including denying or delaying transport of patients with non-emergency conditions, use of lights and sirens for patient transport, determination of medical futility in the field, termination of resuscitation, restriction of EMS provider duty hours to prevent fatigue, substance abuse by EMS providers, disaster triage and difficulty in switching from individual care to mass-casualty care, and the challenges of child maltreatment recognition and reporting. A series of ethical questions are proposed, followed by a review of the literature and, when possible, recommendations for management.

BeckerTK, Gausche-HillM, AsweganAL, BakerEF, BookmanKJ, BradleyRN, De LorenzoRA, SchoenwetterDJ for the American College of Emergency Physicians’ EMS Committee. Ethical Challenges in Emergency Medical Services: Controversies and Recommendations. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2013;28(5):1-10.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Torben K. Becker, MD Department of Emergency Medicine University of Michigan 1500 East Medical Center Drive, B1-354TC Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0303 USA E-mail


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Ethical Challenges in Emergency Medical Services: Controversies and Recommendations

  • Torben K. Becker (a1), Marianne Gausche-Hill (a2), Andrew L. Aswegan (a3), Eileen F. Baker (a4), Kelly J. Bookman (a5), Richard N. Bradley (a6), Robert A. De Lorenzo (a7) and David J. Schoenwetter (a8)...


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