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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Moral Judgments and Triage Principles related to COVID-19 Pandemic


The present study explores moral judgment in COVID-19 related moral dilemma situations involving allocation of ventilators with conflicting allocation principles. Utilitarian triage criteria like the chance of recovery or longer life expectancy are opposed to egalitarian procedures like random allocation and ‘first come, first served’. In the first part of the experiment, participants are presented with three hypothetical situations in which there are two patients admitted to a hospital in a critical state needing a ventilator but only one is available. The conditions about the patients are described and several triage procedures are suggested and rated by participants. Separately, participants rated their agreement with several triage principles. The result shows a clear preference for utilitarian allocation principles. The random allocation principle receives the lowest ratings. The ‘first come, first served’ correlates with the belief in fate score hinting that the egalitarian nature of this principle is questionable.

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