Triage can be referred as the brisk practice of categorization and prioritization of patients, and is divided into the daily triage and the mass casualty triage (Sztajnkrycer et al, 2006). The latter is divided into the primary, secondary, and tertiary triages according to the categorization and treatment by medical personnel after determination of one’s medical fitness and need for immediate medical attention. Ethically, this principle is unfair and is considered as an infringement to one’s right to life. However, medical ethics dictate that treatment should be performed using distributive justice based on utilitarian, egalitarian, libertarian, and communitarian principles (Sztajnkrycer et al, 2006). Therefore, under these principles, justification for use of mass casualty triage can be derived.
However, it is inconceivable for a person to morally, or legally determine if one deserves to live or die. The triage analogy suggests that ethically, it is important to ensure that persons that have a higher chance of survival are treated first, while the rest follow, which could be due to a stretch in medical infrastructure, staff, or resources. This justification is considerate of two factors, the extension of life, and the termination of terminal casualties. It is inconsiderate of not only the life of the patient, but also of the psychological, emotional, and physical torture that is endured by the victims whose patient has been neglected. Therefore, this means that the mass casualty triage is unethical since, in spite of ability to save deserving lives based on the available resources, the number of victims affected by the demise of one individual far outweighs the sustenance of one person’s life. Additionally, research into mass casualty triage has found no concrete evidence that alludes to the notion that using this triage for treatment improves the outcomes of the disaster (Sztajnkrycer et al, 2006).
Sztajnkrycer, M. D., Madsen, E. and Alejandro, A. B. (2006). Unstable Ethical Plateaus and Disaster Triage. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. 24: 749-768