Palliative Care Considerations In Mass Casualty Events With Scarce Resources

Document Type

Journal Article


Mary Ann Liebert Inc


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Nursing


Matzo, M., Wilkinson, A., Lynn, J., Gatto, M., & Phillips, S. (2009). Palliative care considerations in mass casualty events with scarce resources. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, 7(2), 199-210. Available here


Catastrophic mass casualty events, such as pandemic flu outbreaks or large-scale terrorism-related events, could yield thousands of victims whose needs would overwhelm local and regional healthcare systems, personnel, and resources. Such conditions will require deploying scarce resources in a manner that is different from the more common single-event disaster. This article introduces the topic of palliative care during a mass casualty event and reviews the major findings for a federally funded planning guide that examined palliative care issues associated with providing medical care under circumstances where resources are scarce. We focus on the role of palliative care in the support of individuals not expected to survive and offer recommendations of specific actions for a coordinated disaster response plan. Semistructured telephone discussions with disaster management experts and a group meeting of experts identified issues, roles, responsibilities, procedures, and resources that offer the benefits of integrating palliative care into disaster planning and response. The investigations identified 5 domains of concern, along with guidance: (1) the role of palliative care in a mass casualty event with resulting scarce resources; (2) the triage and ensuing treatment decisions for those "likely to die"; (3) the critical palliative care services to provide, along with the personnel and settings; (4) the pragmatic plans needed for ensuring training, supplies, and organizational or jurisdictional arrangements; and (5) unusual issues affecting palliative care under mass casualty event scenarios. Palliative care minimizes the suffering of those who die, ensures comfort, addresses their needs, and may also free up resources to optimize survival of others. Planning to provide palliative care during mass casualty events should be part of the current state and local disaster planning/training guidelines, protocols, and activities.





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