RealNews

Docs to study terror response

When disaster strikes — due to natural disaster, man-made accident or terrorist activity — doctors find themselves at the frontline, dealing with scores of injured people in a chaotic and potentially contaminated area. Among their immediate concerns: Who gets treated first in case of mass injuries? Who needs to be notified if a suspected chemical or biological agent is at play? Who needs to be isolated in the case of a communicable disease such as SARS? Up to now, for most doctors at the scene, guidance is hit and miss. So the American Medical Association has instituted a 16-hour course designed to give doctors the information and knowledge they need to cope with disaster — and perhaps prevent the disaster from becoming a catastrophe. One of the key decisions facing doctors in such situations is determining which patients need to be treated first, said Dr. Richard Schwartz, vice chairman of the emergency medicine department of the Medical College of Georgia. The course suggests sometimes the most critically injured might not receive all possible help at first. “Doctors will be asked to do the most good for the most people,” Schwartz said at a symposium at the AMA’s annual meeting detailing the course outline. That means doctors should try to help victims who have a better chance of surviving than to use scarce time and personnel resources on individuals who are likely to die despite heroic medical efforts. Full Story

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