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COVID-19: legal implications for critical care.

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    • Abstract:
      The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented challenge for the provision of critical care. Anticipating an unsustainable burden on the health service, the UK Government introduced numerous legislative measures culminating in the Coronavirus Act, which interfere with existing legislation and rights. However, the existing standards and legal frameworks relevant to critical care clinicians are not extinguished, but anticipated to adapt to a new context. This new context influences the standard of care that can be reasonably provided and yields many human rights considerations, for example, in the use of restraints, or the restrictions placed on patients and visitors under the Infection Prevention and Control guidance. The changing landscape has also highlighted previously unrecognised legal dilemmas. The perceived difficulties in the provision of personal protective equipment for employees pose a legal risk for Trusts and a regulatory risk for clinicians. The spectre of rationing critical care poses a number of legal issues. Notably, the flux between clinical decisions based on best interests towards decisions explicitly based on resource considerations should be underpinned by an authoritative public policy decision to preserve legitimacy and lawfulness. Such a policy should be medically coherent, legally robust and ethically justified. The current crisis poses numerous challenges for clinicians aspiring to remain faithful to medicolegal and human rights principles developed over many decades, especially when such principles could easily be dismissed. However, it is exactly at such times that these principles are needed the most and clinicians play a disproportionate role in safeguarding them for the most vulnerable. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]