(Reuters) - The Ebola crisis is forcing the American healthcare system to consider the previously unthinkable: withholding some medical interventions because they are too dangerous to doctors and nurses and unlikely to help a patient.
U.S. hospitals have over the years come under criticism for undertaking measures that prolong dying rather than improve patients' quality of life.
But the care of the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, who received dialysis and intubation and infected two nurses caring for him, is spurring hospitals and medical associations to develop the first guidelines for what can reasonably be done and what should be withheld.
Officials from at least three hospital systems interviewed by Reuters said they were considering whether to withhold individual procedures or leave it up to individual doctors to determine whether an intervention would be performed.
Ethics experts say they are also fielding more calls from doctors asking what their professional obligations are to patients if healthcare workers could be at risk.
U.S. health officials meanwhile are trying to establish a network of about 20 hospitals nationwide that would be fully equipped to handle all aspects of Ebola care.